Guiding the Niners to a 13 and 3 season and leading two fourth qtr drives against the Saints in the play offs Alex Smith must improve. As Niner fans look forward to the draft and the upcoming season there will be many things going against the Niners from a historical standpoint and Alex will need to improve in several areas in order to make the playoffs.
Teams that finished 13 and 3 rarely repeat that record and for good reason lots of change happen from year to year and you play a completely different schedule. Alex played very good football last year but if you look at the season he was not the reason the Niners went 13 and 3 he was very good in about 5 wins for the Niners and any Niner fan could see the coaches were very cautious early in the season. It was not until week ten that the Niners came out with a game plan to actually throw the ball and did so with some success but still needed the defense to put the team in position to win.
Alex rarely led the team on drives where he looked in control of the offense and knew what he wanted to do with the football. He was actually the reason many drives stopped and the team was unable to convert the short yardage runs due to lack of respect for the pass game. I looked at some game film recently and saw two glaring weaknesses in Alex’s passing game. First is his inability to lead the receiver with the pass more often than not Alex was throwing behind the receiver or high to the receiver in most cases when the receiver could catch the ball he was off balance and unable to advance the ball further down field many times the receiver caught the ball and ended up on the ground. In a west coast offense this is a main sticking point to running it properly your receivers must be able to run after the catch.
The second is his inability to throw the deep outside pass while I don’t know the exact number on how many attempts he had during the season but most of the attempts I saw ended up out of bounds which is just a waste of a play and in most those instances he was not being rushed and had he put the ball where it could be caught the receivers were there and would have been able to make some big plays for the team. The one we all remember was the throw to Michael Crabtree against the Seahawks which was a fine example of if he keeps it in bounds. So does Alex have what it takes to lead this team back to the playoffs if his past performance sheds any light on this I would say yes.
When looking at Alex’s career he has been a very accurate qb with certain throws one of them being the deep seem route which is the route that led to Vernon Davis leading the team in TDs just a couple years ago. So if he can make this throw he should be able to improve on the sideline passes if he doesn’t then the coaches will have to figure out how to use those throws sparingly because you never want to make the field smaller for the defense. As far as leading his receivers with the ball this is more difficult and will be a focus in the off season as the team gets together in camp the receivers will have to work constantly on Smiths timing and Crabtree must participate in the preseason. Coach Harbaugh will be the key to the success of Smith as he actually gets the opportunity to work with the team this off season and set the finer points of the offense taught to the team. I for one want to see Alex succeed as all Niner fans should but should Alex fail to improve making the play offs will be a much tougher task.
By Mike Zamora
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