After a day of law school orientation and being completely out of the realm of football, I'm back for another look at Monday's exhibition. In comparing my view from the field with what I see on my TiVoed coverage, a different view strikes me. For today, that is of Alex Smith. After attending the game and reading the recaps, I thought people columnists were a little over the top in their gushing praise of Smith's performance. Now that I've seen the televised version, I'm realizing Alex Smith did in fact look really good, considering the small sample size.
It's funny how much different things appear in person versus on television. In person, the game feels a lot choppier with all of the TV timeouts and standing around that takes place. Alex Smith was 4-for-5 for 58 yards and he really did look as good as those numbers would indicate, which is what I want to look at today. Again, the sample size is small and consistency is the next step, but it's always nice to look at the positives every once in a while.
Completion #1 - A sweet little screen pass to Maurice Hicks for 9 yards and a first down at the Denver 45. The wide receivers were all lined to the right, Hicks went left and the play was completed to perfection. Coming off a solid Hicks rush, those screens can do wonders for picking up first downs.
Completion #2 - A nice 18 yard strike to Darrell Jackson that moved them down to the Denver 21. considering there were only 4 completions Champ's way last year, that's pretty nice. And Jaws referred to him as DJax...gotta love it. From my short time at training camp, and now this opening series, I really like the Smith-DJax combination. I really see Darrell Jackson becoming a safety valve for Alex Smith.
Sack #1 - Smith was brought down for a 1 yard loss by former 49er John Engelberger. Shockingly, it was Kwame who got beat on the play. Engelberger went left, Kwame jumped and Engelberger shot right and took down Smith from behind.
Incompletion #1 - On 3rd and 9 Smith got bumped from behind as he was throwing. Jonas Jennings wasn't completely beat on the play, but Elvis Dumervil got excellent pressure on the play forcing the errant Smith pass.
Completion #3 - On first and 10, Smith ran a playaction bootleg with a short dump off to Delanie Walker that gained 5 yards. Nothing big, but little plays like that could be very fruitful on 2nd and short and 3rd and short situations. While Davis is out there for mismatches and spreading the field, Walker could definitely be the guy who does the dirty work ten yards and in.
Completion #4 - Shortly after a nice 20-yard Hicks run, Alex Smith made one of his nicest throws, completing a 26 yard pass to Arnaz Battle down at the Denver 1 yard line. Vernon Davis lined up in the traditional TE spot with Arnaz Battle in the slot next to DJax and Delanie Walker going in motion the opposite way. Smith stepped into a strong throw that Battle slid to catch between three Denver defenders. It wasn't exactly threading the needle, but it was a spot on pass by Smith and a fine catch by Battle that led to a Michael Robinson rushing touchdown.
Now I think I've made it abundantly clear that this is a small sample size (I know you'll be sick if I say small sample size one more time). 4/5 for 58 yards in the first preseason game is not the biggest deal in the world. However, the confidence this kind of performance can build is HUGE. As I said, his performance felt average in person. On tv it looked so much better. Besides doing that again, the next big test for Smith will be when he gets 10-15 pass attempts. I'm very curious to see how he looks against a Raider secondary that is usually impressive. I'll be keeping an eye out for Coach Nolan's notebooks to see how much playing time Smith will get this Saturday.
Obviously there is plenty worth discussing from this game and we'll get to more. I felt however, that this was a good jumping off point for analysis. We all want to see Alex improve and anything that helps his confidence is a good thing. And after spending the day learning about torts and hearing how much reading there will be for school, it was nice to do some basic film breakdown.