Smith likes the direction of newest 49ers' offense
Kevin Lynch, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Based on his performance in the last three weeks of organized team activity practices, quarterback Alex Smith is progressing. And the offense, coached by first-year coordinator Jim Hostler, seems to be progressing right along with its young quarterback.
Smith said his rookie season (2005) under now-Packers coach Mike McCarthy was about a rigid passing game based on progressions and short quarterback drops.
"We weren't throwing the ball downfield; defenses were on top of us," Smith said Wednesday after the team's second-to-last practice. "It was like we were the passive ones and (the defenses) were the aggressors."
Then came Norv Turner, and the offense changed dramatically. "It was the opposite," Smith said. "We were taking seven-step drops, throwing the ball downfield."
That offense performed relatively well in the middle of the field on first- and second-down because of the threat of the run. But when the 49ers got inside the opponents' 20 or needed a third-down conversion, they floundered.
They finished 26th in third-down efficiency and 29th in red-zone production. Nevertheless, the overall offensive improvement from 2006 was enough for Turner to land in San Diego as head coach.
These days in Santa Clara, Hostler is trying to blend Turner's deep-passing game with McCarthy's West Coast approach.
The offense has practiced third-down passing or red-zone offense every day. Coaches have also emphasized an "empty" offensive formation, meaning no backs in the backfield.
Hostler "has done a nice job of incorporating both" horizontal and vertical passing games, Smith said.
The blending of both approaches will make the offense more complicated, which Smith welcomes.
"The more things we can do, the more we can put on film," Smith said. "If you can do a lot of things well, you give the defense a lot of problems."
Gore is leading: One aspect of the team that won't change is that it will run through Frank Gore. Coach Mike Nolan said he wants the running back getting 25 touches a game and Gore said he wants to gain 2,200 rushing yards.
Gore is also becoming more of a leader and involving himself with the entire team.
"If something is good on defense or offense, Frank has opinions on it," Nolan said. "Frank's not shy about coming up to me and saying, 'Coach, I think that guy is a baller.' "
If Gore doesn't like a player, he'll go to Nolan and just shake his head.
"There are some guys who have a pulse on the team and Frank is one of those guys," Nolan said.
Briefly: Team scouts attended former Nebraska tackle Chris Patrick's workout Monday in Lincoln. Patrick will be available in the July 12 supplemental draft, but the 49ers won't be interested unless one of their own tackles sustains an injury between now and then. ... Scouts also attended cornerback Paul Oliver's workout in Athens, Ga. The former Georgia player might not have the speed the team is looking for.
E-mail Kevin Lynch at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared on page D - 2 of the San Francisco Chronicle
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