49ers Mailbag: Will playbook open for Alex Smith?

August 23, 2012, 4:09 pm
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Welcome to another edition of 49ers Mailbag on this Thursday morning, and thanks to those followers on Twitter who supplied questions . . . Do you expect the Niners to open up the playbook to Alex a little more this year? (@gobo49)
If you're asking whether I believe the 49ers are going to change their offensive philosophy to more of a "pass-first" approach, the answer is absolutely no.But there is a strong chance the 49ers will attempt a higher percentage of passes because they might not be playing with a lead this season as much as they did a year ago.The 49ers do not want to throw the ball more. But they want to throw the ball more effectively when they do throw it. They expect to be better on third downs and inside the red zone, that's for sure.But the same overall approach as last season will be in play.Alex Smith will take the occasional shot down the field, but he's going to check it down and take what's there. That's how he made it through 18 games last season (including the playoffs) with just five interceptions.Coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman want to run the ball. This is not a philosophy that's new to them since coming to the 49ers. Remember, they had Andrew Luck as a junior at Stanford. And with the future No. 1 overall pick at quarterback, they still ran the ball 58.5 percent of the time that season.Should one or more tackles go down with injury who do you see the 49ers playing at the position? (@Michael_RA)
If one tackle goes down, the 49ers might not lose a whole lot. They would move Alex Boone to that tackle spot and Leonard Davis could take over at right guard.But if left tackle Joe Staley and right tackle Anthony Davis became unavailable, then there would be a lot of anxiety. (Of course, every team in the NFL would be in a bad spot if both tackles went down.)
If that were to occur, Boone would probably play left tackle and second-year pro Mike Person would be in line to play right tackle. That is, unless the 49ers make a move after final cuts to get a proven backup. But don't expect that to happen. Proven offensive tackles generally do not lose their jobs at the final cuts.Does Demarcus Dobbs' versatility (now as edge rusher in nickel) make possible to keep 3 OLB's again in '12? (@Tre9er)
Yes. As you know, the 49ers kept three outside linebackers on their roster last season. And it looks as if that's the way they're leaning again this year.The 49ers have three proven outside linebackers with starters Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks, and Parys Haralson, who started every game a year ago.

Journeyman Eric Bahktiari was removed in pass-rush situations in the first half against the Houston Texans on Saturday to allow Dobbs to get into the game. Dobbs is the 49ers' fourth outside pass-rusher right now behind the three outside linebackers.While Bakhtiari has stood out in two exhibition games, it should be noted that he has played well against players who aren't likely to be on 53-man roster this season.Veteran Ikaika Alama-Francis will be given an opportunity in the final two weeks to determine if he can be that fourth outside linebacker.In terms of the 53-man roster, it could come down to a fourth outside linebacker vs. nose tackle Ian Williams. Although Williams has practice-squad eligibility, he has played well enough to put himself in a position to get claimed off waivers if the 49ers let him go.Most impressive guy who WON'T make the practice squad? (@jaynovel)
The answer to that question is a wide receiver.Sorry I can't be more specific, but a year ago I never thought the 49ers would've chosen to retain Joe Hastings on the practice squad (and eventually promote him to the 53-man roster) over draft pick Ronald Johnson and impressive undrafted rookie Chris Hogan.If the 49ers keep six receivers, as I expect, on the 53-man roster, there's no need for them to hold onto more than one receiver on the practice squad. Undrafted rookies Nathan Palmer, Chris Owusu and Brian Tyms each brings a little something to the table. The 49ers face a difficult decision -- much as they did a year ago.Owusu seemingly gets the least amount of practice and play time of any of the receivers. Are they hiding him? Palmer received the biggest signing bonus (10,000) of any of the undrafted rookies. Those two are the clear front-runners for the practice squad nomination.These final two exhibition games might be mostly meaningless, but they could shape the 49ers' decision at wide receiver.

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