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Alex Smith, Offensive Line Ready For the Pass Rush?

Alex Smith spoke with the media today and discussed a variety of issues heading into the 49ers matchup this Sunday with the Seattle Seahawks. One of the issues he mentioned that is on all of our minds is the idea that teams could bring a lot of pressure against the 49ers this season. The line performed well against the Raiders and Chargers but was completely bulldozed by the Saints and Texans.

It makes sense that until the 49ers show they can handle consistent pressure, opposing defensive coordinators would be wise to bring the house fairly frequently. The Seahawks have a variety of question marks heading into 2011, but their defensive line could prove fearsome if they can remain healthy. The primary issue for that unit in 2010 was health as the core of Red Bryant, Colin Cole, Brandon Mebane and Chris Clemons played together a grand total of four games. The Seahawks released Cole and added in Alan Branch this year, but if they can otherwise stay healthy, it's worth keeping an eye on that group.

How do the 49ers plan on countering all the pressure? Smith was asked about using Edwards, Crabtree and Ginn on short plays but he turned the question into a more general discussion of risk and reward on blitzing. The extensive use of a shorter passing attack could help counter that, along with some screens and other such plays. The question is picking up the blitz and connecting on those quick plays. However the 49ers try and counter it, I would be stunned if the Seahawks did not go a little blitz crazy early on.

QB Alex Smith
Press Conference - September 7, 2011
San Francisco 49ers

As you prepare for this week going against Seattle, what is the focus of the offense that's been different before, obviously your game plan, but what's your biggest change?

"Really zeroing in now, you've been in camp mode prior to this and really kind of installing and running things. At this point, really zeroing in on a game plan. Getting very specific in the looks you're going against, what you anticipate seeing on Sunday and getting ready to execute against that."

[Defensive Coordinator] Vic Fangio said defensively it's a matter of getting fewer plays and honing in on those, but with the shortened offseason for this offense, I know [Head Coach] Jim [Harbaugh] doesn't want to talk percentage-wise, but really what part of the offense is available and how much?

"Better question for those guys, the coaches, I have no idea. You kind of zero that in on the game plan; what's good this week, what you anticipate to be good, and then zeroing in on that and kind of getting a concise game plan. Like I said, repping it this week and getting ready to execute it on Sunday."

Alex, you've got to be looking forward to having [RB] Frank [Gore] full time, and all of your receivers, and just having the entire offense in there so you can just finally showcase what you guys have.

"Yeah, no question. This is kind of that changeover week like I said where you get out of the whole camp and preseason mode. Now it's regular season, it's time to roll. Yeah, you're rolling-we're going to be rolling. The whole game everyone is going to be in there. Everything's up, so I'm excited about that." 

What are your emotions going into this? Last year you left thinking maybe I might not be back, you're back. What are your emotions?

"Excited. This is a huge game. I mean they are all huge games. This is number one. This starts it off. It's a division game at home. Seattle coming down, a lot at stake and excited for it. I'm excited for the challenge. Getting ready this week and it all starts today. We are going to have a great practice today that leads us into tomorrow, and we'll work our way to Sunday." 

Alex, it's fair to call you a kind of a connoisseur of all offenses with what you've seen here for all these years. How would you compare your preparation and your readiness for this season kind of compared to where you were other years at this time?

"I feel really good. It's hard-I don't want to get into comparing the different years. You try to press delete on those and move forward. I feel really good with where we are at though. I think we had a great camp, we got a lot done, and knowing now it's time to really narrow that focus to that Sunday. Like I said, as far as today, really zeroing in on our prep today, and take us into tomorrow, and then like I said it will lead up to Sunday, and we'll be ready to go." 

Maybe you can hit on it in terms of this game, this team in past years has been characterized by digging a big whole early in the year that you try and dig yourself out of the whole way, so how important is it to get  off to a good start this year?

"Yeah, it's a division game, first game of the year. Don't really need to say anything else. Huge, huge game." 

What are you expecting out of Jim Harbaugh? You've seen a little bit in the preseason, and now he's got the whole offense, defense, what are you expecting out of him?

"I don't know. That's a great question. I guess I'm so focused on what we're doing on offense, not really thinking about that. I think the thing about Coach Harbaugh is he's always himself, so who knows what's going to happen."

Is he [Head Coach Jim Harbaugh] the voice in your ear?

"This last game he was, so I'm not sure what's going to happen this Sunday. We'll see. I guess we'll talk about it this week." 

Does he give you a little bit more information than most voices in your ear?

"I don't really want to get into what is going on in my ear, but for the most part, yeah just the plays coming in we are executing it." 

That was the first time he had done that?

"So far this year, yeah." 

How much practice time have you had with [WR] Michael Crabtree this past week? Are you finally throwing to him?

"Got to a little bit, yeah. Got to throw with him yesterday a little bit, so that was good. It was good to see him out there running around. He's extremely talented. He's going to help us a ton."

You've got to be comfortable having Frank Gore behind you?

"Yeah for sure. I mean, Frank's Frank. The guy is awesome. Not only in the run game, but in the pass game and protection. The guy does it all, so no question. You feel good every time you hand the ball off to him." 

I don't think you guys are the only team in the league that had issues sometimes in pass protection. Just because of the time frame and five guys and other guys trying to work together. would you expect that league wide, there will be a lot more pressure early the season?

"I don't know. I guess I have no idea. Maybe. I kind of expect a little bit for us to get challenged looking back at our preseason. We had our problems with it at times, and I think until you prove you can handle it, you are going to see it, so." 

Are you guys set up pretty well to handle that, because guys like [WR Braylon] Edwards, Crabtree, [WR] Joshua [Morgan], they can take a short pass?

"No question. I think that's the goal. Any time a team is pressuring you, especially on defense, they are kind of rolling the dice with it. It's kind of higher risk, higher reward, and if you're able to execute against it, there is big play potential there. I think that's the goal of any offense when you're getting pressured, is to make them pay." 

As far as last year is concerned, it seems like the roles might be reversed in that they might not know exactly what's coming, what to expect. Was that similar with last year, did you not quite know what to expect?

"Yeah, for sure. I think you definitely hit it. Last year I can specifically remember going to the game, and they were very vanilla all preseason and you kind of had no idea what you were going to get. Watching [U]SC film and you are trying to prepare, trying to anticipate what you might get, but really you are guessing. You don't really know until you get out there, so yeah, it was difficult."

Is it nice to be able to make them guess?

"Yeah, a little nice. Hopefully yeah, got them on their heels and guessing what we are going to be doing, what we might have for them."