Question: Matt, do the 49ers have enough quality offensive line depth to protect Alex Smith on passing downs so he can continue to learn how to read defenses, get rid of the ball quickly, and improve his passer rating to minimum of 65 percent completions? Is it possible to expect Alex to throw 25 TDs and say only eight to 10 interceptions this season with good protection and a strong running game? How much more does Alex need to improve for the Niners to become a playoff team?
Answer: I think the depth at o-line is as good as it ever has been in San Francisco. Now, a lot of those guys are young - David Baas, Adam Snyder and Joe Staley - and there likely will be some youthful mistakes here and there. But I expect the line to be jelling at the end of the season, just about the time they hit the "easy" part of the schedule. As for Smith, 25 touchdown passes might be a bit ambitious, especially considering the 49ers run the ball so much. But he'll definitely improve enough to give the 49ers a shot at the playoffs. How about 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions?
- Matt Barrows