Will Alex Smith be a good quarterback? It’s the question I get asked more than any other. The answer is, I don’t know. But I think so. Smith is smart and he’s a hard worker – and that combination usually makes for a successful football player. And as I wrote in today’s paper, he’s also tough, a quality that tends to have a big effect on teammates.
But it’s also entirely possible that I’m a bit biased. As a beatwriter, I’m supposed to be entirely objective about the team I cover. But there are inevitably certain players you end up rooting for inside your head simply because you like and admire them. And Smith is an easy guy for reporters to like. He’s unassuming. He’s smart. He reads books (and Harry Potter, by the way, doesn’t count as “deep reading”). He does the New York Times crossword puzzle. These are all attributes admired by former English majors, which is what many, if not most, newspaper reporters are. He doesn’t answer text messages while you’re interviewing him, which happened to me today with a player who shall remain nameless. (Ok, it was Keith Lewis, whom I actually like quite a bit). If you ask one of the other three beatwriters who cover the team, I’m sure they’ll say they, too, think Smith will emerge as a good quarterback. But they may be under a spell, too.
I’d like to think that Smith is a late bloomer. He’s only 23 and he’s a notoriously slow starter as shown by his career at Utah and Urban Meyer’s famous “nonfunctional” quote the day Smith was drafted. He’s also on his third offensive coordinator in three years. But at some point, those are going to start sounding like bad excuses, the kind of excuses that followed David Carr and Joey Harrington, the quarterback the 49ers will face this weekend, early in their careers. I’d hate to think that, while watching Harrington on Sunday, I’m looking at the future version of Alex Smith. I hope I’m wrong.
Talked to Joe Cohen today in the locker room. It seems that he and Manny Lawson have become rehab buddies as they both try to work their way back from ACL tears. This seems like a good situation, particularly for Cohen, who could really use the intensity and encouragement a guy like Lawson can provide.
Cohen, a fourth-round pick, injured three ligaments in his right knee. He tore the MCL, sprained the PCL and tore the ACL. The MCL and PCL will repair on their own. Like Lawson, he had surgery to repair the ACL with help from a cadaver ligament. Both hope to re-join the team by training camp.
Michael Lewis (the punt returner) had to leave practice to tend to a family emergency. He is in Louisiana and might travel directly to Atlanta for the Sunday's game. If he is unavailable, Arnaz Battle or Nate Clements could take over punt-return duties.
Starters Alex Smith and Darrell Jackson went through another full practice today. If healthy, Jackson would start against the Falcons, although Nolan said Ashley Lelie would continue to have a big role. Walt Harris (knee) did not practice but could see action tomorrow. Jonas Jennings (ankle) and Keith Lewis (hamstring) did not practice.
Here's a new feature for all you aspiring GMs out there. Every Thursday, I plan on asking personnel guru Scot McCloughan which upcoming college game to watch and which future NFL players to keep an eye on. The game to watch this week: Virginia Tech vs. Georgia Tech, which starts, well, now on ESPN.
Here are the guys to watch for Va. Tech:
XAVIER ADIBILB OLB
DUANE BROWN OT
CHRIS ELLIS DE
JUSTIN HARPER WR
JOSH MORGAN WR
DORIAN PARKER FS
For Ga. Tech:
PHILIP WHEELER LB
DURANT BROOKS PUNTER
TASHARD CHOICE RB
DARRELL ROBERTSON DE
-- Matt Barrows