Alex Smith Is Happy with 49ers' New WRs, but Will He Succeed with Them?
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith compared his new crop of receivers to presents on Christmas day, but he will soon find out some gifts will be more fun than others.
New additions A.J. Jenkins, Randy Moss and Mario Manningham each bring something different to this team. The blend of having a deep threat, a speedy wideout and also a possession receiver bode well for the sluggish receiving corp. from last year.
The only problem is do all of these new wide receivers fit Alex Smith's playing style; and can he succeed with them?
Horrible Third Down Efficiency
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The Niners often found themselves in third in long situations last year which made it a lot harder to consistently convert.
Smith struggled to keep the chains moving which is why players like Jenkins and Manningham will become key next year. Both are 6'0" and are able to exploit teams by using their size and speed. These two players have the ability to find folds in the defense and create open looks for their quarterback.
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It's no secret that Smith doesn't throw the deep ball particularly well. He has shown the ability to make the deep pass on occasions, but more often than not Smith makes the conservative choice and passes to players in underneath routes.
Randy Moss has made a career out of taking the ball deep. Even at his age, he still has the speed to blow past most corners and get downfield. The issue will be if Smith can hit him deep consistently without airing it out too much for opposing defenders to make a play on the ball.
On deep passes, Vernon Davis was Smith's safety net last year. When he was targeted by Smith on passes of 15 yards or more, 18 passes were caught for a completion percentage of 60 percent.
However, Smith struggled to get others involved deep regularly. When he targeted other players on passes of 15 yards or more, Smith only completed 22 passes and had a completion percentage of 40.7.
Short Yardage and Red Zone
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Moss is going to help in short yardage situations because he will open it up for players running underneath routes.
Smith is good at short yardage passes and he likes to play it safe rather than take a lot of shots downfield. This is where Jenkins and Manningham will make their main contribution to the team.
However, Moss won't be left out the loop. The red zone is where he is going to make his biggest impact for this team. At 6'4" he is a big target that is still able to out leap opposing defenders.
Last season the 49ers were 30th in scoring percentage within the red zone (TD only). San Francisco had about three red zone attempts per game and only scored a touchdown 40. 7 percent of the time.
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Smith made it work with the likes of Kyle Williams and Ted Ginn last year, so it's not improbable that he will find a way to make it work with the new wide receivers.
Manningham and Jenkins will be huge for Smith, but don't expect Moss to become his favorite target.
He will find away to make the smart choices and spread the ball around, but no one receiver will have eye-popping stats.
In past years, Moss has been known to post incredible stats because he has played with quarterbacks capable of passing the ball deep. This won't be the case in San Francisco.
However, he will still help others succeed even though he won't be getting the ball deep on a regular basis. He is still capable of drawing double teams and getting defenders away from other players on offense, which is something that the Niners didn't have last year at receiver.
Smith doesn't have the arm strength of a vintage Daunte Culpepper and he doesn't have the accuracy throwing downfield that Tom Brady has.
Although, he has shown the ability to take the ball deep on occasions. Last season five of his 17 touchdowns were for 30 yards or more.
Since throwing deep isn't Smith's strong suit, Moss is going to be a decoy in order to draw defenders away from receivers underneath. Moss won't be used in a way that we have seen in the past, but he'll still have some success with the team.