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Camp Preview: Quarterbacks

Posted Jul 3, 2012

The San Francisco 49ers are set for training camp to begin at the end of the month. But before the team can defend its NFC West division crown this upcoming season, let’s take a look at the depth of each position group on the roster as they prepare for camp. Quarterbacks are up first.

OVERVIEW

Alex Smith did amazing things in 2011, things that put him in elite company. Smith’s four, come-from-behind road victories last season tied a franchise record set by Hall of Fame signal caller Joe Montana in 1989. Smith also tossed the fewest single-season interceptions in franchise history (6) with a minimum of 400 attempts. The 28-year-old quarterback with seven years of playing experience led the 49ers to an NFC West division title, a remarkable comeback Divisional Playoff win over the New Orleans Saints (recently nominated for an ESPY in the category of “Best Game,”) and an appearance in the NFC title game. And, for the second time in seven seasons, Smith started all 16 games for the 49ers. Unlike 2006, Smith’s consistency translated to results on the field. Not only did the cerebral pocket passer surpass the 3,000-yard mark for the first time in his career (3,144 passing yards), he also produced his highest completion percentage (61.4 percent). Last year’s second-round draft pick Colin Kaepernick saw brief playing time in a few lopsided contests, but it was Smith’s show in 2011. Under the guidance of first-year coach Jim Harbaugh and first-year coordinator Greg Roman, Smith developed into a crafty quarterback who made clutch plays in big moments for his team. This offseason has been much of the same for Smith, who re-signed with the club for three more seasons to settle “unfinished business.” In his first offseason working under Harbaugh and Roman, Smith demonstrated excellent throws in situational portions of the team’s offseason program. With a number of new perimeter weapons at his disposal, Smith thrived in San Francisco’s detailed offseason program.

DEPTH

RETURNERS: Alex Smith (eighth season), Colin Kaepernick (second season) and Scott Tolzien (second season). NEWCOMERS: Josh Johnson (fifth season, first with San Francisco).

Kaepernick enters training camp as Smith’s backup, but Harbaugh has noted that all four of his quarterbacks are capable of playing in the league. Tolzien, claimed by the 49ers at the end of roster cuts last season, did not dress for any games as a rookie. Both second-year quarterbacks have gained confidence throughout the offseason from the multiple reps Harbaugh and Roman allow their quarterbacks in practice. Johnson, an Oakland native and former Harbaugh pupil at the University of San Diego, returns to the Bay Area after four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

STANDOUT STAT

7

This coming season the 49ers will face seven defensive backs who appeared in the 2012 Pro Bowl. The list includes: New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner, Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor and Arizona Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson.

QUOTABLE

“There’s no question, every day it’s getting better. And every day there’s always going to be a play here and a play there where it’s not what you want. But now it’s another opportunity to coach off that and the players to learn from it. And what we’re seeing is improvement everywhere. Alex, all the quarterbacks, just the cohesion. We always talk about getting to the spot in the passing game. And guys are getting to the spot at a much higher percentage. And it’s tangible, it’s quantifiable, it’s real.”


-Offensive coordinator Greg Roman on the ongoing strides of the 49ers passing game.