Smith Gets the Nod Against Oakland

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Shaun Hill started the 49ers first preseason game and now Alex Smith will get his turn this Saturday night when the 49ers host the Oakland Raiders at Candlestick Park.

Both quarterbacks had success against the Raiders defense during the team's four joint practices in Napa this week, but Smith will be the one to get first crack at Oakland's defense.

"Alex will start the game, just vice versa of last week, a reversal of last week," head coach Mike Singletary said after his team concluded a "mock game" practice in preparation for Saturday.
"When Shaun comes in, he will have the luxury of having the starting o-line. So it will be fair like it was last week."

Singletary would not commit to the extent of Smith's playing time. Instead he said he would let the game dictate how long Smith would be under center.

With less time remaining for each quarterback to separate themselves from one another in the competition, Smith understands that Saturday night will be his biggest opportunity to seize the starting job.

After being named the starter, Smith was asked what he'd like to accomplish against Oakland and he had a checklist of objectives.

"Besides playing well, I think execute the offense, be smart with the football and make good decisions," Smith said. "That's the biggest thing.

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"Then, obviously, go out there and be accurate and play well within that. When you get out in the games, if things break down, you've got to make things work and try to make plays."

Whether Smith or Hill is running the show on offense, Singletary said he wants the 49ers to see both sides of the ball progress on what they've been building throughout the offseason.

"I think the guys have been making steady progress," Singletary said. "I want to see us continue to progress. Every little thing we can do in every area, whether it is the offense, the defense or the special teams, we just need to keep moving forward. The identity we have, the standard we set, we need to continue to live up to that and try to get there."

Defensively, the 49ers would like to continue their solid play over the last week which included three interceptions against the Denver Broncos in the preseason opener and five more interceptions during Thursday's morning session in Napa.

"We want to make sure everything is sharper from the first game," rookie defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois said. "We have to make sure we get better communication, that's one of the biggest keys."

But also, Jean Francois and the other 49ers backups want to make sure there isn't a drop-off once the first team defense comes out of the game.

"As for a rookie, or as a member of the second group, we need to make sure everything clicks," he explained. "One thing the Coach Singletary wants us to work on in the second group is when the second group gets in, it does not seem like Takeo (Spikes), Patrick (Willis) and all the other first team guys are missing."

The 49ers certainly displayed their new identity in Napa, out-playing the Raiders both days the two teams worked together. But Singletary is quick to point out that his team's performance in the wine country won't equal the same success this Saturday.

"In a situation like that, you don't know what the other team is doing. You don't know how much of their offense they're showing," he explained. "You don't know what their plans are going forward. For us, it is just a matter of continuing to do what we do and continuing to focus on the fundamentals and technique and get out of it what we are trying to get out of it."

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