San Francisco 49ers: 5 Reasons Alex Smith Will Go Off in 2012
He proved in the playoffs that he can win games with his arm as long as he gets a little help from his friends. Unfortunately, he only had one: Vernon Davis.
With Davis, Manningham, Moss and Michael Crabtree at his disposal, Smith will have no shortage of weapons. What he will have is a bunch of playmakers expecting to see the ball. Smith will be asked to throw the ball more often next season to meet the demands of his talented receivers—a task Smith is more than ready for.
This slideshow will explain why Smith will go off in 2012 and finally shed his "game manager" reputation.
Improved Supporting Cast
Alex Smith has always lacked a true No. 1 wide receiver, a problem that has limited his production.
Michael Crabtree has been good, but his inability to consistently get opened has hurt the San Francisco 49ers' passing attack.
The additions of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham will ensure Smith always has an open target. Both receivers possess the ability to gain separation from coverage, Moss with his unprecedented size/speed ratio and Manningham with his crafty route running.
Defenses will have to focus on Vernon Davis and Moss, which will open up room for Crabtree. Now that he is not the primary target, he should be able to get open more consistently.
Smith had the best season of his six-year career with Davis, Crabtree and Kyle Williams as his top targets. Throw Manningham and Moss into the mix and you get the most talented group of 49er receivers since Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens shared the field 12 years ago.
Expect Smith's yards per completion to increase from 7.1 in 2011 to around nine in 2012.
Second Season in Greg Roman's Offense
Alex Smith looked as confident as ever in 2011 despite the fact that he had just learned his sixth playbook in as many seasons. Instead of getting accustomed to a new offense this summer, he will be mastering the one that enabled him to put up the best stats of his career.
A complete understanding of the offense will allow Smith to focus more on technique and less on his reads, something which will enable him to look relaxed in the pocket and fire the ball with conviction.
For this reason, the 49ers' offense should begin to resemble the proverbial machine it intends to imitate.
Seven teams on the San Francisco 49ers' 2012 schedule finished in the bottom 10 in passing yards allowed per game last season.
Smith is talented enough to take advantage of average defenses, but the possibility that he will go up against the NFL's worst units is all the more encouraging.
As long as Smith and his receivers are on the same page, there is no reason to doubt the 49ers' passing attack will be able to routinely whip the league's weaker secondaries.
Better Red-Zone Targets
The San Francisco 49ers struggled inside the 20-yard line in 2011, evident by the fact David Akers broke the record for most field goals made in a season.
Braylon Edwards was brought in last year to be a lethal red-zone threat. That clearly did not work.
Enter Randy Moss, the best jump-ball receiver in the history of the game, and Mario Manningham, who can beat defenses with his quick acceleration off the line of scrimmage.
With legitimate red-zone threats, the 49ers will not have to rely on pounding the ball up the gut to score.
The result will be five or more touchdowns on Smith's stat sheet.
Alex Smith Still Has Something to Prove
Despite leading the San Francisco 49ers to the NFC Championship Game, Alex Smith is not getting any love.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh betrayed his quarterback when he openly pursued Peyton Manning last month. There has also been some talk about backups Colin Kaepernick and Josh Johnson possibly beating out Smith for the starting spot.
Smith will enter the 2012 season determined to prove himself worthy of the first selection of the 2005 draft.
Now that he finally will be surrounded by a deep group of talented receivers, he will have no trouble silencing doubters and dropping his "game manager" reputation.