Alex Smith Poised to Break Out in 2012?
Alex Smith was once the first pick in the draft, a grim reminder of the 49ers past of repeated losing seasons and cycling through quarterbacks. Smith was drafted in the hopes that he could develop into a solid starting quarterback. However he struggled and wound up nearly being let go in favor of veteran options multiple times over. Last Season seemed to be a precursor to Smith finally getting on track as a starter his 7th season with the team.
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Heading into his 8th season his career totals sit at:1,137 completions, 1,959 attempts, 58% completion rate, 12,543 yards 6.4 yards per completion for 68 tds, 58 ints, he’s been sacked 172 times, and run the ball 181 times for 629 yards and 4 tds. On top of his 58 interceptions he has fumbled 41 times and lost 18 of them. Not impressive stats for a quarterback who started for a team that was the number 1 seed in the NFC last season. However when you take a look at the three seasons since 2008 you begin to see a picture that shows him as a quarterback who seems to be finally hitting his stride in the NFL.
In 2009 he started 10 of 11 games he played completing 225 of 372 passes or 60.5% he threw for 2,350 yards for 6.3 yards per completion a vast improvement over 2007 his last as a starter in which it was just 4.7. He managed also to manage more touchdowns with (18, his highest total yet,) than interceptions (12) for the first time in his career. He cut down on fumbles as well with just 3 his lowest total of his career. He seemed to build on that success a bit in 2010 as well starting 10 of 11 games again completing 204 of 342 passes or 59.6% for 2,370 yards or 6.9 yards per completion his highest total yet. For the 2nd season in a row he managed more touchdowns (14) than interceptions (10). Adding 60 rushing yards as well. Jim Harbaugh saw enough in him to bring him back as the starting quarterback in 2011 and it seemed to only help Smith’s development. He set career highs in completions, attempts, completion rate, yards per completion, passer rating, rushing and matched his rushing touchdown total. He also had his highest touchdown to interception ratio of his career with 17 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions. He completed 273 of 445 or 61.3% of his passes for 3,144 yards while still being sacked 44 times. He ran the ball 52 times for 179 yards and 2 touchdowns. After a solid season in 2011 it seems the coaching staff seems poised to give him the reigns again in 2012 despite reported contact with Peyton Manning during free agency. They rewarded him with a 3 year contract after losing out on Manning, but signed Josh Johnson to compete with former 2nd round pick Colin Kaepernick for the back-up job and the chance to step in if Smith struggles.
However if you look at their moves it seems to me they are more just trying to light a fire in him as a player and get him to push for an elite year out of him. Exactly what a team would expect from a former top pick. They drafted the top receiver in the A.J. Jenkins, while also signing Mario Manningham, and veteran Randy Moss to compliment Michael Crabtree. They also have special teams star Ted Ginn Jr who ran 8 times for 68 yards caught 19 passes for 220 yards, 29 kick returns for 800 yards and 1 td, 38 punt returns for 466 yards and 1 td, and Brett Swain this spread offense should only prove to defenses that Smith can be an elite quarterback in the league. Especially with a run game that has Frank Gore as the starter, Brandon Jacobs for short yardage and change of pace situations, and 2nd round pick LaMichael James who is more of a change of pace runner and 3rd down back. As if those three weren’t enough veteran Rock Cartwright is here to add depth and special teams help. The team also drafted guard Joe Looney and center Jason Slowey possibly the two most entertaining names in the league for offensive lineman. Well let’s hope Joe can get a little Looney and push some tackles around and Jason can help slow the pass rush because they seem to be the only real help the o-line got despite allowing 44 sacks last season.
I expect Smith to throw nearly 450 passes again except we’ll see his completions up around 300 for about 3,500 to 4,000 yards or more 20+ tds and 10 interceptions.