49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

September 2, 2007
Alex haters, unite!

Question: I have watched Alex Smith on most all of his Forty Niner TV games. Trent Dilfer seems to get back in position to pass and read where his receivers are faster than Smith. I realize Dilfer has been playing pre season games against different units than Smith, but you have watched them throughout preseason. What is your opinion? I think Smith desperately needs Frank Gore in the lineup to relieve some of the pressure by making the opposition more cognizant of the running game.
Clayton, Rancho Cordova

Answer: I won't deny that Dilfer has looked very good in training camp and in the preseason this summer. But with the exception of one game - San Diego - Smith has looked very good, too. Keep in mind that the San Diego defense makes even the best quarterbacks look foolish. Smith has everything a team would want in a quarterback. He's smart. He's tough. He's athletic. He's level-headed. He studies film. And most of all, he's shown steady progress since he's been here. It's way too early to be reaching for the eject button.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Matt, one simple question ...Are you tired of Alex's two-yard dump offs 10 out of 11 times?
Abhinav, Berkeley

Answer: Not when Vernon Davis coverts them into first downs. Let's at least wait until the Cardinals game before we start calling for Smith's head.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Starting his third season, do you think Alex Smith will ever be an NFL quarterback? He looks like another Jim Druckenmiller to me.
Cal, Marysville

Answer: Comparing Alex Smith to Jim Druckenmiller is like comparing Penelope Cruz to Rosie O'Donnell.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: I've followed the 49ers for a long time and have seen the ups and downs. After the free-agent period and the draft, my hopes rose a bit but they sank after watching Alex Smith these past two games. He is a huge mistake. Does "Mark Wilson" ring a bell? With the 1st pick, they should have traded down to strengthen the team, then draft a QB in 2006. Leinart and Cutler would both have been there. Leinart is a stud who will haunt the 49ers for years. Another option would have been Drew Brees as a free agent.
James, Lincoln

Answer: Yes, if only the 49ers had a time machine, they could have assembled the greatest team ever. If you'll remember, the 49ers wanted to trade down in 2005 but no other team would bite. Leinart and Cutler might seem better than Smith, but you have to wonder whether that's because they landed on better teams. When you're the No. 1 overall pick, it means you're part of the worst team in the NFL. Would Leinart, if he had come out in 2005, fared better than Smith these past two years? Very, very doubtful.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: With the 49ers spending so much money on the defense this year I have yet to see the improvements. Tully Banta-Cain was supposed to be the one getting to the quarterback and I haven't seen that yet. Nate Clements was supposed to be shutting down the other team's top wide receiver and you have Bernard Berrian looking like a pro bowler. I think Michael Lewis has done the best of all the new defensive players. Was it worth spending all that money on the defense this year?
Cesar, Sacramento

Answer: Well, Tully Banta-Cain says he's been working on his weaknesses in games and hasn't shown his full array of moves. But you're right - the 49ers have yet to sack another team's starting quarterback this year. I'm not sure why Clements wasn't covering Berrian more. When he was on the Chicago wideout, he seemed to do a very good job. I hate to give a wishy washy answer, but we're going to have to wait until the regular season before we can tell whether the offseason expenses were worth it.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Hi Matt -- appreciate your work. What am I missing with Brandon Williams? I still think he gets cut. He has not shown quickness, speed, elusiveness. We just missed on the draft pick of him (Hester went just before him). I think Battle will return punts in regular season as we have a bit of depth at WR now so no need to worry about injury. I also think Williams has gotten all reps there as they really wanted to see if he could do it (That one decent return if anything showed he has no speed. Any others taking reps in practice?
Mark, Bangkok.

Answer: Sorry I didn't answer this before cut-down day, Mark. As you now know, Williams did not get cut and will be the team's primary punt returner this season. I agree with your assessment of him. He is sure-handed but has not shown much burst or power. Why did they draft him? Nolan had suffered through some fumbled punts in 2005 and dealt with the same fate in the Senior Bowl that winter. He decided he wanted a punt returner, and Williams was the best one available when they picked in the third round. It should be noted that the guy they replaced in 2006 - Otis Amey - is the last 49er to return a punt for a touchdown. As far as others taking reps in practice - Battle, Taylor Jacobs and Nate Clements have taken turns this summer.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Any thought of moving "Lame" Harris to guard, where his problem with speed rushers would not be an issue? Or will he be another Donahue total bust?
Spencer, Sacramento

Answer: "Total bust" might be a bit of an overstatement. Harris doesn't come close to falling into Rashaun Woods, Derrick Hamilton, Andrew Williams, Saleem Rasheed (shall I go on?) territory. And I don't see him moving to guard. The 49ers are loaded at the position for now. And Harris would resist such a move considering how much money tackles get on the free-agent market.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Great news/decision by Nolan re: OC working at field level.
Correct me please if I'm wrong, but this does mean play calls will go directly from offensive coordinator's mouth to the QB's ear - right? My main question: When is this communication opened and then closed, and by whom? Yea Staley! Good luck, Kwame - you gave it one heck of an effort.
Sammy, Sacramento

Answer: Yes, Jim Hostler will speak directly to Smith, which ought to shave four or five seconds off the process. I believe the communication cuts off when there is 15 seconds left on the 40-second clock.
-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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