Hill inching ahead of Smith

Hill inching ahead of Smith


Oh, yeah, the 49ers’ offense practiced today, too.


While all eyes – and ears – were concentrated on the successes of the 49ers’ defense, the 49ers’ offense was not having nearly as much success against the Raiders on the other field.


It was a pretty low-key morning session for the 49ers’ offense. The run game looks pretty good – Glen Coffee had a nice day – but the passing game did not do much. Shaun Hill is showing signs of taking hold of the quarterback position. The offense just seems to move better with Hill at the controls.


In my opinion, Hill is starting to inch ahead in the quarterback competition. Perhaps, I’m even downplaying it. Hill might actually be taking a commanding lead based on how he seems more at ease in unfamiliar, unscripted activities – such as these practices against the Raiders.


The coaches will decide Thursday evening on the rotation and playing time for the 49ers’ exhibition game Saturday against the Raiders. Alex Smith will probably get the starting call. But he might have to put together a very strong showing to remain in the race for the starting job.


Hill does a better job of getting rid of the ball quickly. Neither Hill nor Smith completed any passes of consequence down the field, but some of Smith’s short tosses came after he would’ve already been sacked. The 49ers’ practice consisted of a lot of short throws and passes that were thrown away to avoid sacks.


Coach Mike Singletary has not announced a starter for the regular season. That might not come for a while, either.


But as I’ve written before, even if Smith is not the starter when the season begins, the organization still expects him to get his chance at some point. Singletary is not averse to changing quarterbacks, as he showed in his first half-season as coach. So neither Hill nor Smith can afford to get too comfortable in whatever roles they open the season.


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Raiders second-year player Trevor Scott, a defensive end, had a pretty good practice against Joe Staley. On the other side, Adam Snyder looked to have a very good practice. As a whole, offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye said he likes how the line is progressing.


“I think this morning they made a big step,” Raye said. “I think under the conditions of them being up here for four practices against the Raiders, this is a different front for us because the guards are covered. In our training camp they’ve been uncovered because of the 3-4 scheme. I thought we created some movement. I thought it was excellent work for us and I think their progress has been really good.”


Here are some other observations from Raye:


–I asked him if Smith is improving in the area of getting rid of the football (the 49ers have put a three-second clock on their Santa Clara practice field to provide a guideline).


“Yes, he’s getting better at it,” Raye said. “That three-second clock was a little bit of a nuisance to them earlier, but I think they have adjusted to that and they understand that their body time clock has to speed up as well as their feet and we’ve emphasized and stressed the ball coming out and he as well as all the other guys have done pretty well with that.”


–More about Coffee:


“He has really been exceptional for a rookie running back in terms of all of things that we’ve asked him to learn and the things that he does,” Raye said. “I think that he’s way ahead of the curve in terms of his pass protection. Its unusual for a college back because they are not asked to protect much from the I-back position. If he continues to develop the way that he has – he’s a rugged player, he is mentally tough, he plays physical and rugged, and I think that he has a bright future.”


–Michael Crabtree is nowhere to be found (there’s still no progress on his contract). Brandon Jones is out through September with a broken shoulder. And third-year player Jason Hill has yet to assert himself.


Don’t look now, but here comes Arnaz Battle.


“(He’s) a steady, smart guy that can do a lot of things,” Raye said of Battle. “He can handle the ball as a runner. He’s a good intermediate route, possession receiver and he’s sneaky fast. I hadn’t seen much of him prior to training camp because he was rehabilitating an injury from the offseason, so we didn’t see him in the OTAs or the offseason program, but we’ve been very pleased with what he’s done as long as (trainer Jeff Ferguson) and the rehab people tell us he’s doing okay, he’s done well.”


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No question about it, I’m watching the 49ers’ defense this afternoon. It should be fantastic theater after the morning session.


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