NFL Preseason: 49ers QB Alex Smith Must Play Significant Time vs Saints
Jim Harbaugh's biggest challenge in his first year as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers will be trying to get Alex Smith to shed the "Bust" label and play like you would expect a No. 1 overall pick to play. That is why Smith should play a lot more than normal in all four preseason games, but especially the first one against the New Orleans Saints.
Smith has shown flashes of being the player the 49ers thought that they were getting when he was taken with the top pick in the 2005 NFL draft, but he has never been able to sustain it over the course of a 16-game season.
It doesn't help matters that Smith has had to play in so many different offenses over the last six years that it is almost unfair to call him a veteran because he has never had a chance to get comfortable in an offensive system.
And the fact that Harbaugh saw something in Smith during their time together before the lockout when no one else did should inspire a lot of confidence in the 27-year-old.
But Smith has to find a rhythm before the season starts, and that is why the preseason becomes even more important for him. He knows that this is his last chance to prove himself and he has embraced the challenges put in front of him.
From ESPN.com NFC West blogger Mike Sando:
"...There's no doubt Harbaugh brings more offensive expertise to the job than his recent predecessors did. Smith has embraced learning from a coach with Harbaugh's understanding of the position. One veteran player said Smith never lost the locker room in part because teammates knew the deck was stacked against him..."
Smith needs all the reps in actual game action that he can get in order to properly prepare for the regular season.
I am not saying to throw him out there for the entire game against the Saints, but he should at least play the entire first quarter, if not the first half. This is a big year for him and he has to do everything he can before the games actually start counting in order to make the most of it.
Harbaugh is going to help him improve, but a coach can only do so much. The player, ultimately, is the one who will show whether or not he can play.
Smith's time to prove himself is now and this is the most important preseason of his seven-year career.
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