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QBs Continue to Showcase Skills

Posted Aug 24, 2011

From all accounts, the 49ers offense continues its growth due in large part to the quality practice sessions being held at team headquarters in Santa Clara.

Players and coaches agree, utilizing a game-like tempo through their continued repetitions of Greg Roman’s playbook has benefitted the entire unit. But perhaps no position group has improved more in a short period of time than the 49ers quarterbacks.

Two of which, veteran Alex Smith and rookie Colin Kaepernick, remain in competition for the team’s starting spot. Both spoke to reporters on Wednesday, offering insights on the offense’s development as well as their own personal strides. Both players already see growth in their games through their first month working with new coaches.

One in particular, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, who was an NFL signal-caller for 15 years, has been thoroughly pushing the quarterbacks to succeed. It’s not a surprise, but it’s certainly been welcomed by Smith, who signed a one-year contact to return to the 49ers for a seventh season.

And so far, playing for Harbaugh has been everything the former No. 1 overall pick envisioned while weighing his options this offseason.

“We get it every day,” said Smith, who is 10-of-20 for 136 yards with one interception through two preseason contests. “The detail, the coaching on every level – not just in the film room or on the field – it never ends.

“And that’s what I wanted.”

Smith also appreciates Harbaugh’s honest nature which reared itself on Tuesday when a reporter asked Harbaugh if the team had settled on a starter for the regular season. True to form, the 49ers coach responded that there wasn’t a timetable on making such an announcement. Harbaugh wants both quarterbacks to continue competing for the right to start.

Saturday’s game against the Houston Texans serves as another proving ground for both players. But first, neither player can expect strong performances in the preseason without getting it done on the practice fields.

Continuing last week’s strong practice trend remains important.

“We need to do the same thing this week,” Smith said, “Then have it show up for us on gameday.”

Roman, the team’s offensive coordinator, also spoke on Wednesday and sounded pleased with his players’ effort during the week.

“We had, I thought, one of our best practices (on Tuesday),” Roman revealed.

Improved chemistry between quarterbacks and receivers remains crucial to carrying over big plays in practice to ones being witnessed by the masses.

Smith continues to grow a relationship with new wideout Braylon Edwards, who has been pushing Smith to throw together on off days. Because of that newfound comfort, Smith has been eager to utilize Edwards in one-on-one matchups.

Edwards’ 32-yard catch against Oakland serves as evidence of that trust.

“It was great to get it done in the game, not just out here in practice,” Smith said of Edwards’ sensational one-handed grab. “I feel like if you have him one-on-one and the corner’s back is turned, you take that shot and he made a great play on the ball.”

Edwards, however, has not quite cracked the 49ers starting 11. Roman said veteran Ted Ginn Jr. has earned the right to start opposite Joshua Morgan. On Saturday, Edwards should get more work with Smith, who said he expects to play into the third quarter.

The playing time for both Smith and Kaepernick hasn't been finalized just yet. But both sounded eager for whatever opportunities are presented to them against the Texans.

“Right now, we’re just trying to stay focused on getting better every day, making sure we really get this offense down and go from there,” said Kaepernick, who has completed 15-of-29 passes for 169 yards with two interceptions.

Kaepernick has improved in a number of areas already in a short time. Most notably, the quarterback who ran a “Pistol” offense – a variation of the shotgun – in college said he’s completely comfortable under center.

“It’s almost second nature now,” Kaepernick said.

With more time under center and knowledge of the offensive system, Kaepernick feels confident in everything he’s doing on the field. In his mind, that’s a huge plus.

“I think the experience has helped a lot,” the 49ers second-round pick said. “Getting more comfortable with the offense is the biggest thing.

“Going into the first preseason game, we had two weeks. At that point, you really aren’t comfortable with the offense, but I’m getting more and more comfortable getting better every day.”

The quarterback who ran a blistering 4.53, 40-yard dash standing 6-foot-4, 230-pounds, doesn’t think the speed of the game has changed for him.

“It never really seemed too fast,” he said. “It’s more getting comfortable with the offense.”

And as long as Kaepernick feels at ease with the plays and system he’s running, he expects his performance to pick up, too.

“When you’re out there thinking, that’s when your play slows down. The more I get comfortable, the faster I’m able to play.”

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