Alex Smith and the deep ball: 'It's a fine line'


Alex Smith and the deep ball: 'It's a fine line'

SANTA CLARA -- Quarterback Alex Smith threw more passes of over 20 yards Sunday against the New York Jets than he attempted in the 49ers' first three games combined."It's funny -- you hate saying this -- but some days you hit all of them and some days you don't," Smith said on Wednesday."It's kind of like that with the long ball sometimes. It's such a fine line and they're not high-percentage throws. But, for sure, the more you do it, the better you get."Smith completed two of his six attempts for 51 yards, according to statistics supplied by Pro Football Focus, on deep throws Sunday in the 49ers' 34-0 victory over the New York Jets. Two of his deep passes for Mario Manningham were long. Manningham also caught a 26-yard pass from Smith in the first quarter.Smith said his first overthrow to Manningham was too flat. The second one, Smith said was a matter of about 6 inches too long -- "a fine line," he called it. In both cases, Manningham's progress on the route appeared to be impeded by Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson."It certainly affects it when you're getting held out there, as far as throwing the ball down the field," Smith said. "I'm not throwing to a spot, blindly. You're looking at the receiver, trying to get a feel for his angle, his speed and trying to hit him running."According to PFF, Smith is 5 of 10 on passes that travel more than 20 yards for 114 yards and one touchdown. He and tight end Vernon Davis have not seemed to have any problems connecting on the deep ball.RELATED: Alex Smith career stats 2012 game logs
"It's something he and I have a lot of work on," Smith said. "We've worked on it a lot over the years. He's someone I feel extremely comfortable with, letting he ball go. We have a good relationship. (I) definitely feel comfortable there, and getting there with the other guys."Smith said he generally made all the right decisions against a Jets defense that was taking away some of the underneath routes. After reviewing the film he felt secure with his decision-making."Sunday I thought I saw everything well," he said. "There wasn't much when I turned on the tape that surprised me."Really, a couple deep shots we had, just wish we could've hit them. We were close on all of them. And it's a fine line between hitting those and not."Smith spent time in Southern California before the start of the 49ers' offseason program working on his mechanics with former major league pitching coach Tom House. Now, he said his concentration is more on the week-to-week preparations to face the upcoming opponent.REWIND: Alex Smith enlists help from unlikely coach
When asked how his mechanics are holding up, Smith said, "I feel good. At this point, it's not something I'm thinking a lot about. I feel healthy. I feel really good. (My) shoulder feels great. My body feels good. That's the most important thing."Smith, who completed 61.3 percent of his passes a year ago during his best NFL season, has opened this season with a 67.3 accuracy rate through the first four games. His passer rating stands at 98.1."There's always room for improvement," Smith said. "You only seem to be as happy as your last game. As a quarterback, it's always, 'I could've done better' or 'What are the throws I could've made or what could I've done differently.'

"The bottom line is getting the win. Obviously, it was a great win (against the Jets). Looking to get better and move on toward the Bills."

Shanahan showed patience with Beathard; Will now have to show more

Shanahan showed patience with Beathard; Will now have to show more

Kyle Shanahan is, self admittedly, not a patient person. As he watched quarterback C.J. Beathard run the scout team over the last couple of weeks -- how he visualized an unfamiliar play, went through his progressions and handled the defensive coverages -- the head coach saw rapid improvement every day. But he suppressed any urge to play the rookie before he was ready.

“I tried to wait for the right time for him and the right time for the team,” Shanahan explained.

Down 14-0 to Washington halfway through the second quarter with starter Brian Hoyer struggling, Shanahan knew Beathard’s time had come.

“I felt the team needed it right then,” Shanahan said. “It also made me more confident to do it because I thought he was ready for it, also.”

Moments after the game was over, Shanahan named Beathard the starter. Watching the game tape on the flight home only bolstered his decision.

“By no means was he perfect, missed a couple of things, but that always happens,” Shanahan said. “I thought he came in there, didn’t hesitate, competed. The moment was not too big for him. Made a few plays in rhythm, made a few off schedule plays and was a big reason we got back in that game.”

Beathard led the 49ers on two scoring drives and finished 19-of-36 with 245 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception, though it came on fourth-and-20 on his final pass attempt of the game. On his 45-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson, Beathard extended the play when the fifth year receiver wasn’t where he expected him to be.

“He was supposed to go to the post for a certain coverage, and they had a busted coverage, so he just hung out there which is why C.J. didn’t see it right away,” Shanahan explained. “We had enough protection where he could take a couple more hitches. He drove the pocket and saw where Aldrick was, and he didn’t hesitate. Made that throw with that arm strength.”

Shanahan smirked at his not-so-subtle dig at those who questioned Beathard’s arm strength during the draft process. He sees a quarterback who can make all the throws, and make them from the pocket, and scramble when he needs to. All he needs now, Shanahan contends, is experience.

“It’s about playing in the game and reacting to defenses, reacting to coverages, reacting to adjustments. He’s going to see a lot of things he hasn’t seen before, and that will change each week. It will probably change each quarter.”

Helping Beathard continue to grow through those experiences will require patience, but in this situation, it’s the kind the head coach can handle.

“You’re never going to get a quick answer. You see over time, but he’s got the ability to do it. He’s got the mental toughness to do it. I think he will get better the more he plays.”

Armstead to undergo surgery on broken hand, out indefinitely


Armstead to undergo surgery on broken hand, out indefinitely

Defensive lineman Arik Armstead will be out indefinitely with a broken hand, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan announced Monday.

“He’s going to need surgery, so it’s going to be some time,” Shanahan said of Armstead, the 49ers' first-round pick in the 2015 draft.

The 49ers will discuss placing Armstead of injured reserve, which would rule him out for at least eight weeks. The 49ers will also be without defensive end Aaron Lynch this week against the Dallas Cowboys. Lynch is week-to-week with a calf strain.

“The more guys you lose, the less you like that depth,” Shanahan said. “Losing Arik, which could be some time. We’ll have to discuss IR. We have to do that over the next couple of days. We know we’re going to have Lynch out, too, for at least a week or most likely more. That takes away two guys who were helping.”

The 49ers might make a roster move to add a defensive lineman to their 53-man roster. The 49ers also expect outside linebacker/defensive end Dekoda Watson to return to action this week after missing two weeks with a groin strain.