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49ers vs. Eagles: Alex Smith Discusses Stout Philly Pass Rush

Alex Smith chatted with the media before practice yesterday and after getting through the expected questions about the road trip through Youngstown, he managed to provide us with some useful information about the Eagles. He was asked about changes in the Eagles defense Coach Harbaugh and what he had seen in his studies. Smith spoke about the secondary, but he also had this to say about the pressure they've brought to bear on quarterbacks:

There is much less pressure, in terms of linebackers and secondary. Before it was high pressure, a lot of different looks, giving me a lot of different things to think about. This isn't quite as much variety, but they're still giving as much pressure. I think they lead the NFL in sacks. The defensive ends are playing at a really high level.

I took a look at a variety of regular and more advanced statistics and the Eagles defensive line really is quite filthy when it comes to bringing pressure. The Eagles are second in the NFL in total sacks and first in terms of FO's adjusted sack rate. Adjusted sack rate is sacks and intentional grounding penalties per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance and opponent.

It's worth noting that the team's highly ranked pass rush comes almost entirely from their defensive line. That's not exactly shocking given their defensive alignment, but it's still interesting to note. They have twelve sacks as a team and those sacks have come entirely from the defensive line. I took a quick look through some of the Pro Football Focus stats as well and all but one of their 37 quarterback pressures have come from their front four.

The 49ers offensive line once again has its work cut out for it against a defensive line that is performing as well as any in the league. As it currently stands, the 49ers might end up with Adam Snyder starting at right guard on Sunday, but even that is no guarantee. The o-line gets challenged every week, but this is the biggest challenge to date.

This could end up being a game where Alex Smith will need to use his feet a bit more than normal whether it be scrambling out of the pocket, or knowing to step up into the pocket to make his throws. A statue in the back field will get absolutely destroyed by the Eagles front four.

QB Alex Smith
Press Conference - September 28, 2011
San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center 

How's it been so far in Ohio, the whole experience?

"It's been great. Different, it's great to be around your teammates, like a little training camp out here. We get to spend time with each other in a new environment. So yeah, it's been a lot of fun." 

Coach said he's been learning a lot of different facts about guys. Any random things you have picked up from spending time with guys this week?

"Not off the top of my head. You get to know guys pretty intimately though when you're in close quarters, spending a lot of time with each other so." 

When asked about the facilities, coach about the facilities, Youngstown State is very proud of what they have here, especially the brand new indoor facility. How does it compare to what you're used to working with?

"I haven't been in the indoor facility. I saw it from the outside and it looks great. I got to go over there and lift and workout and saw the athletic facilities, the stadium and the field. I was definitely impressed about it to say the least. I thought they were great facilities, definitely. We all came from college. I came from Utah a Division-1 school, and definitely comparable to that. From an NFL point, yeah absolutely, not a lot of drop-offs. Excited about that, you don't know what to expect and then you get over there and you see them and definitely pleasantly surprised." 

Did you have a walk-thru today or yesterday out on the parking lot?

"We had a little walk-thru out on the pavement. Yeah, you know trying to anywhere to get some work in." 

You said today, this morning or yesterday?

"Yesterday was a day off, so we didn't do any football yesterday. Today was the first start of it." 

How does that affect the preparation and change things ever so slightly from the normal routine you're used to back home?

"I mean there's little adjustments. Obviously we're living in hotel rooms and walk-thrus on pavement. It's not a big deal. You find a way to focus on the football part of it, so it wasn't a big deal to me." 

What are your impressions on Youngstown so far in your short time you have been able to be here?

"Yeah I haven't been able to go see a ton, I mean we got to do a little bit, but obviously been here in the hotel most of the time focusing on football and kind of in the immediate area of the hotel. It's been great, people have been great. Really welcoming and it's been fun." 

Coach Harbaugh said there have been some changes with the Eagles defense so far. What have you seen from what you have studied so far?

"Yeah, very different from the Eagles from the past. There is much less pressure, in terms of linebackers and secondary. Before it was high pressure, a lot of different looks, giving me a lot of different things to think about. This isn't quite as much variety, but they're still giving as much pressure. I think they lead the NFL in sacks. The defensive ends are playing at a really high level. Obviously with the additions of [CB] Nnamdi [Asomugha] and [CB Dominique] Rogers-Cromartie, the secondary is an elite secondary in the NFL. Really good defense, playing at a very high level. Not a lot of weaknesses over there, but you try to find your matchups and take advantage of them." 

You mentioned being in a hotel room here, yeah you like the comforts of home, but sometimes at home you got little duties...

"For sure, I got a 4-month duty [referring to his son]." 

Here, do you find you're focusing maybe more on football?

"Yeah, for sure. You're absolutely right. My commute time is cut down as well. To walk up to the 6th from the 4th is pretty quick. Yeah, for sure there are advantages and disadvantages. I think that was one of the great things we talked about as far as the team. Yeah you're going to come here and there will be some distraction, but at the same time it's really just a chance to be with your teammates and focus on football and really a chance to prepare to play a game." 

Coaches are such creatures of routine and habit, are you surprised that you guys didn't go back to California and go through your normal routine?

"You know, with coach Harbaugh, no not at all. He's definitely a guy that I think is constantly trying to get better, find an edge and definitely thinks outside the box. So when this came up it didn't surprise me." 

Alex, just to be in the city where your owners grew up, what does that mean to you? I mean you see the 49ers logo on their building and that sort of thing?

"Yeah, I've had the chance to come back here a couple times for different events. So I've been back here a couple times. So yeah, it is. Obviously they are very proud and as a player you appreciate that. They are part of the team and they want you to come be a guest in their town and host you in a sense, so it was a great fit." 

How pleased were you to get Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis more involved in the passing game, as well as Bruce Miller, to get some different looks out there?

"It was, we were fortunate as far as the timing, to lose [WR] Braylon [Edwards] and then Michael to get back healthy, so excited to just get him back going. He missed training camp and the first weeks of the season, so he's still just trying to get revved up and I look forward to continue to keep him going. Yeah but Vernon, every time you can get Vernon involved, he's such a threat and such a playmaker. You love to get the ball in his hands. Nice little surprise to have Bruce, Bruce stepped up. The guy played defense last year and coming in and catching balls and blocking, so it was great to see that too, as well as everybody." 

When was it that the team was notified that you were going to be doing this? Was it during preseason, during training camp?

"I'm not sure when we officially got notified. I think I caught wind of it early. I think during the preseason I caught wind of it or I think coach Harbaugh let us in on what the plan was, maybe just as quarterbacks or myself. I think the team officially heard last week or the week before."