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49ers-Titans: Alex Smith vs. Vince Young

Xt vs. Xt

2005 and 2006 saw Alex Smith and Vince Young drafted #1 and #3 overall respectively.  In the time since those lofty draft selections, things have not exactly gone according to plan for either player.  Both players seemed to show improvement from year 1 to year 2 Alex Smith showed improvement in year 2, while Vince Young was a bit of a mixed bag that second year.  However, for both QBs, their stock quickly plummeted immediately thereafter.  Alex Smith was injured midway through the 2007 season and is just now healthy and starting again.  After a very solid start to his career, Vince Young seemed to be turning into a bit of a head case.  While the 49ers franchise has struggled mightily along with Smith, the Titans built an impressive 13-3 season with the aged wonder Kerry Collins at the helm.

So now we sit here in 2009 with the top QBs taken in 2005 and 2006 getting a chance to square off.  This is one of many interesting matchups for Smith who will also get to square off against fellow 2005 first round pick Aaron Rodgers in a couple weeks.  At the beginning of this season how many people expected these various matchups to take place?  Smith vs. Young or Smith vs. Rodgers?  It's a completely different world eight weeks into the season.

Vince Young
Yesterday we discussed the importance of the battle between Chris Johnson and the 49ers rushing defense.  If the 49ers defense is able to continue its success against the run, that would put the Titans offense squarely on the shoulders of Vince Young.  Last week against Jacksonville, Young was 15/18 for 125 yards and 1 touchdown, while rushing 12 times for 30 yards.  Not too shabby, but it was against a crappy Jaguars team, and the offense was really carried by Chris Johnson.

We go into Vince Young's abilities, and also that of Alex Smith after the jump...

So two questions have to be considered in assessing Vince Young.  First, will he be given a chance to do a bit more with the offense, or will the Titans run Chris Johnson into the ground and avoid giving too much free reign to Young?  I asked Jimmy over at Music City Miracles, so we'll see what he has to say.

The second issue with Young is his mobility.  While his passing may always remain questionable, the mobility is certainly still a huge asset for him.  What should the 49ers do to contain the scrambling?  Does Patrick Willis spy in on him?  Another option would be to play Michael Lewis a bit closer than normal and let him spy Willis.  Lewis is primarily a run-stopper anyways, so having him closer to the line wouldn't be the end of the world.

Alex Smith
On the other side of the field we've got our own Alex Smith.  If you check out yesterday's Jimmy Raye transcript, you'll notice all sorts of discussion about the use of the spread offense and mixing in more shotgun.  Jimmy Raye even points to comments about how much it was used when Smith was at Utah.  Maybe Jimmy's been reading NN.

It's safe to say at this point that the 49ers are probably giving more free reign to Smith than the Titans are to Vince Young.  Smith has more receiving weapons than Young and seems to be slowly working them into the mix.  I'd argue Michael Crabtree is better than any receiving option on the Titans, and probably not get a lot of lip back.  As Smith continues to develop better rapport with Crabtree, and with all the receivers, the passing offense will hopefully improve (in spite of offensive line struggles).

I am curious who people think will perform better, but it might not be the easiest comparison to make.  Alex Smith could outperform Young but be on the losing end of things because of a big Chris Johnson performance.  If the 49ers do win I think it will come in no small part because of Smith's performance.

So feel free to throw some comparison predictions between the two (still) young QBs.