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Friday, August 24, 2012
Chat wrap: On Alex Smith's production

By Mike Sando

Picking up where we left off in the most recent NFC West chat, conducted Thursday:

Nick from California asks how much statistical improvement we should expect from San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith.

"Do you see him having 28-plus touchdowns or more than 3,700 passing yards?" he asks.

Sando: Smith passed for 17 touchdowns and 3,144 yards last season. I'll take the "under" on 28 touchdowns and 3,700 yards for 2012.

Smith
We should expect gains in third-down conversion rate, which would give the 49ers additional possessions. From that standpoint, the production should increase overall. Beyond that, I don't see Smith's touchdown or yardage totals increasing much more than the 49ers need them to increase. Strong defense and special teams should continue to frame what the 49ers need from their offense. Taking undue risks has not been part of the equation for coach Jim Harbaugh and coordinator Greg Roman.

Passing yardage sometimes piles up while playing from behind and losing, but that did not seem to be the case for the 49ers last season.

Smith would have to average about 231 yards passing per game to reach 3,700 for the season. He averaged 234 yards per game in his eight highest-yardage games last season. The 49ers were 8-0 in those games. He averaged about 159 yards in the team's remaining eight games. The 49ers were 5-3 in those games.

I'd go with low- to mid-20s on projected touchdown passes and around 3,500 yards for passing, provided Smith plays the full season. That is just based on a general feeling that the offense should make progress without changing its identity.

Note: I'll break out a couple other questions separately.