SANTA CLARA — With training camp winding down, the 49ers are still sifting through some position battles after bringing in a slew of new faces on offense through free agency and the draft.
Alex Boone appears close to nailing down the starting right guard job, while the backup quarterback job remains tight and a deep group of wide receivers vie for playing time.
Michael Crabtree figures to be one of the starting wideouts, and Randy Moss is expected to have a specialized role consisting of around 20-25 plays per game. That leaves Mario Manningham, Ted Ginn, Kyle Williams and rookie A.J.
Jenkins battling for snaps, with Jenkins still struggling to learn the playbook and make the adjustment to the speed of the NFL.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman sidestepped questions about who the starters will be.
“They’re all starters right now. If we got into five wide receivers grouped the first play of the game, then five receivers would be our starters. If we had one wide receiver the first play of the game, then one wide receiver would be our starter,” Roman said. “They’re all contributors and they’re all competing right now for a role.”
Quarterback Alex Smith is helping Roman and coach Jim Harbaugh evaluate the position with his strong play during training camp and through two preseason games. He has been highly accurate, rarely missing on his targets by more than six inches, according to Roman.
“As far as decision making goes, not too many that I’d want over again,” Smith said of his preseason performance to date.
“Throwing the ball where I want to throw it, and if not, getting out of there.”
Smith hasn’t stretched the field much through two games as he continues to focus on taking what defenses are giving him, but admitted having Moss on the field creates more opportunity to push the ball downfield.
“Randy does provide some opportunities where if he’s one-on-one and you’re going to take some shots, just a guy who plays the ball that well in the air and that kind of ability, that’s what you want,” Smith said.
While Smith is still getting the play calls from the sideline, there is little doubt he feels more comfortable finally having a second year in the same offensive system for the first time in his NFL career. At the same time, his experience in so many different systems and good communication with Roman and Harbaugh has seen him making more suggestions about the offense this year.
“He understands all the different things that we do and he’s really, really, really intelligent,” Roman said. “Bright football player. Really intelligent. He is super smart. Savant-like at times and has great ideas.”