Entering the third game of the preseason, most football teams are polishing up the little things before the start of the season.
Last second roster spots are being decided, and for starters, it's their final chance to work out the offseason rust and kinks.
For the San Francisco 49ers however, the preseason has been anything but a polishing up, but rather more than cause for concern.
The quarterback battle between Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick is believed to be set in stone; Smith will start, Kaepernick will ride the bench.
However, Alex Smith has been anything but solid this preseason. He's been beat up badly, made terrible decisions, has regained the "happy feet" he's been known for, and seems to revert to the same old Alex Smith who has 49ers fans booing, even in a preseason game.
Through three preseason games, Alex Smith has completed just 12-of-25 passes for 153 yards, zero touchdown passes and two interceptions, good enough for a QB rating of 36.4.
Against the Houston Texans on Saturday night, Smith's QB rating was just 2.8. He was showered with boos from the crowd, and looked more like a very raw rookie than a seventh-year man who was taken first overall in 2005.
Throughout his career, Smith has been hampered mostly by forces outside his control. Injuries to his shoulders caused him to miss games in 2007 as well as all of the 2008 season.
Three head coaches, a different offensive coordinator in just about every season he's been in the NFL, the lack of a real deep threat at wide receiver and a patch work and very young offensive line, have all hampered the growth of Alex Smith.
Smith, however, is partly to blame for some of the mishaps he's had on the field. Terrible accuracy deep downfield, the inability to play consistently and the overall lack of under-using his own talent.
Alex Smith can run. He's mobile enough to keep a play alive or scramble for a first down, and when he's tapped into that talent, he's proved successful on the field. But as has been the story of Alex Smith's NFL career—Smith rarely, or rather inconsistently, uses his playmaking skills.
Matt Schaub, the Houston Texans starting quarterback on Saturday night, ran for more yards than Alex Smith, 4-0. Four yards may not seem like much, but the fact of the matter is, at least Schaub attempted a couple of carries, while Smith, who is much more mobile and a far better runner than Schaub, failed to even make an attempt to run.
To say that Alex Smith's preseason has been underwhelming is an understatement. Rather, a better word might be: disappointing.
How many more chances can or should Alex Smith get with the 49ers? The 49ers were everyone's preseason favorite to win the NFC West following the 2006 season, and every single time they always fall flat.
Almost no NFL analyst has the 49ers pegged to win the NFC West this year, the popular opinion being the upstart St. Louis Rams, yet the 49ers may have the most talented team.
Talent and execution are two different things however, and if the 49ers want to make any noise in the 2011 season, or hope to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002, the play of their quarterback will be the driving force to their success—something Alex Smith has had very little of since joining the 49ers.