One of the big questions of the 2012 season is can Alex Smith prove he’s a true franchise quarterback, now that the 49ers have gotten him some weapons and now that he’s had a full offseason in Harbaugh’s scheme. Jim Harbaugh did a great job of turning him from lost cause to game manager last season, but history shows that teams can’t win on a consistent basis following the good defense, good running game, don’t make mistakes model (see pre-Cutler Bears or pre-Flacco Ravens). You can have a good year or even a great year, but it’s very tough to maintain consistent year to year success in the NFL without a true franchise quarterback.
Smith certainly looked like a franchise quarterback in the opener, completing 20 of 26 for 211 yards and 2 touchdowns, leading the 49ers to an upset victory over the Packers in Lambeau 30-22. However, the Packers were blowing coverages left and right so it’s tough to get a conclusive answer from that game. It’ll probably be tough to get a conclusive answer from this week’s game either as the 49ers head home to take on the Lions and their incredibly banged up secondary.
Already with a weak secondary heading into the season, a big part of the reason for their 23rd ranked scoring defense last year, the Lions have been plagued by injuries in that area in which they were already weakest. Top cornerback Chris Houston and starting safety Louis Delmas both missed the opener and are expected to miss this week as well, very bad news since those were the Lions’ only two decent defensive backs. Without those two, the Lions had trouble stopping Sam Bradford last week, who completed 17 of 25 for 198 yards and a touchdown in a near Rams victory in Detroit.
Now the Lions expect to be without another defensive back, 3rd round rookie Bill Bentley, this week. Bentley was a starter last week in place of the injured Houston. Without Bentley, the Lions’ top 3 cornerbacks this week will be Jacob Lacey, who struggled as a starter in Indianapolis last year, Drayton Florence, who was a final cut of the Broncos’ roughly 2 weeks ago, and Jonte Green, a 6th round rookie. At safety, they will start two career journeyman backups, Erik Coleman and John Wendling. Their pass rush is good, but expect Alex Smith to find life very easy through the air once again this week, as long as they can keep him protected again, something they did a good job of against Green Bay, as he was pressured on just 7 of 33 drop backs.