Minicamp notes: Breaking down Alex Smith’s third down and red zone performance from Tuesday

SANTA CLARA – Alex Smith threw two touchdowns and converted one third down in Tuesday’s afternoon practice.

He threw his first touchdown to Vernon Davis. The offense lined up in the red zone, Davis ran toward the end zone and Smith threw the ball high over Davis’ back shoulder. Davis leaped in the air, caught the pass and landed on his back. It was the catch Wes Welker couldn’t make on the Patriots’ last drive of the Super Bowl. Davis made it look easy.

The other TD Smith threw was also a back-shoulder beauty. It was a 20-yard pass to reserve tight end Kyle Nelson from New Mexico State.

As far as I could tell, Smith did not pass for any third down conversions, but he ran for one. On a third and long he faked a handoff and ran for what appeared to be a first down. Smith still seems to avoid throwing risky passes on third down and in the red zone – you rarely see him force passes into tight areas.

THE GOOD

  • Perrish Cox looked like the best cornerback on the field at times. He broke up at least three passes and picked off another one – a pass from Colin Kaepernick intended for Brett Swain. Cox lined up at right cornerback and over the slot, and he played well at both spots. At right CB he ran stride for stride with Michael Crabtree and knocked down a deep pass. In the slot he stuck with Kyle Williams and A.J. Jenkins and broke up a couple of short passes.
  • Scott Tolzien may have had the best day of all the quarterbacks during 11-on-11 scrimmages. He threw a beautiful 15-yard pass to Mario Manningham on the left sideline, and he made a bunch of tough throws in the two-minute drill.
  • Josh Johnson struggled early in practice with his accuracy, but he came on strong toward the end. In a red zone drill he threw a perfect pass to Vernon Davis in the back right corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Later Johnson connected with Joe Hastings on a 20-yard pass down the middle of the field, and the very next play he hit Hastings in the back of the end zone for a TD.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD

  • Kaepernick had a tough day. He had his moments – his best pass was a 50-yard strike to Jenkins for a touchdown. But he got five passes batted down at the line of scrimmage by my count. He got picked off by Chris Culliver on a pass that was batted downfield, and he overthrew many other passes. On his first pass in 11-on-11 scrimmages, Kaepernick missed a wide open Konrad Reuland streaking down the middle of the field, checking it down to Gore in the flat instead. Immediately a coach yelled “Vertical!” Harbaugh walked over to Kaepernick and whispered something in his ear. Kaepernick clapped his hands in frustration.

THE REST

  • Jenkins practiced primarily with the third and fourth teams, while Swain practiced primarily with the first and second teams. That’s probably not a depth-chart preview. Swain has experience, and Jenkins needs lots of instruction because he’s a rookie.
  • NaVorro Bowman did not practice today. He’s imminently expecting twins. He has a son already – NaVorro Jr.
  • Patrick Willis left during the middle of practice to fly home for a personal reason.
  • Carlos Rogers practiced despite an injured right calf. He participated in positional drills and some scrimmaging, but he looked rusty. Crabtree beat him easily on a deep in route, and then Rogers took the rest of practice off.
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