I just finished watching the tape of the San Diego exhibition game, and I’m giving Alex Smith a B+.
That’s a very good grade. He completed 8 of 10 passes and overall he looked confident and decisive and accurate.
Why a B+ and not an A or and A-? For one, the longest pass he completed was nine yards, meaning he wasn’t asked to do anything extraordinary or out of his comfort zone.
Also, in ten pass attempts he only made it to his second read or progression twice. The first time he got his pass batted down at the line of scrimmage. The second time he hit Braylon Edwards over the middle in the red zone for a seven-yard completion.
The rest of his passes were one-read throws. This means that the wide receivers ran good routes and the coaches called good plays, and Alex Smith threw passes where they were designed by Greg Roman to be thrown. It also means the offensive line gave Alex Smith more than 2 seconds of protection in the pocket.
If Harbaugh can get B+ performances consistently out of Alex Smith and his offensive line, the Niners have a good shot to win the division.
Here’s a breakdown of every pass attempt Alex Smith made:
- 5-yard completion to Ted Ginn on a shallow left-out route. Smith throws the ball high over Ginn’s head and Ginn makes a great catch. Ginn was his first read.
- 3-yard completion in the left flat to Delanie Walker. Similar play, Smith throws this pass more accurately. Walker was his first read.
- 4-yard completion to Moran Norris on a play-action roll-out to the right. Norris was Smith’s only read. The completion was made a couple yards behind the line of scrimmage but Norris picked up yards after the catch.
- Smith feels pressure, steps up and scrambles for 7 yards.
- Smith gets to his second read and a defensive linemen bats down his pass at the line of scrimmage. Smith needs to slide better in the pocket so he can find lanes to pass.
- Staley gets beat around the outside, so Smith steps up and completes a 5-yard pass to his check-down option over the middle, Kendall Hunter. Expect to see a lot of this play in the regular season, with both Hunter and Gore.
- Smith stares Ginn down all the way on a short curl route, and Charger linebacker jumps the route and almost deflects the pass, but Ginn makes a spectacular catch. Two terrific catches for Ginn on this drive.
- Another play-action roll-out to the right leaving Smith one read – Joshua Morgan running to the sideline. Smith hits him for a 9-yard completion.
- This is Smith’s best pass of the night. First and 10 from the Chargers’ 11, Smith looks left, turns his head to Braylon Edwards at the last minute and completes a pass to him over the middle for a 7-yard gain. Smith opened up a passing window in the middle of the field by looking left first.
- Smith throws a perfect fade to Edwards in the end zone, Edwards tries to catch it with one hand and drops it.
- Shotgun, no play-action, just a straight roll-out to the right, but Bruce Miller misses a block and Smith has to throw the ball early to his one read – Joshua Morgan, who catches the ball anyway and gets tackled at the goal line.
B+ is a very good grade and it gives room for improvement. What would you give him?
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