Liotta: Smith needs to prove his worth

The murmur you hear sweeping across Candlestick Park when the teams take the field for tonight’s Niners-Minnesota Vikings exhibition game won’t be a chorus of oohs and ahhs because Brett Favre is in the house. It will be what has become this preseason’s 49er fan prayer: “Please let Alex Smith be good. Please let Alex Smith be good.”

Sluggish to say the least in his first preseason appearance, Smith continues to serve as the key to all that is hopeful in 49er land. And he’s got to show some stuff tonight against the Vikings, especially the first drive or two when there’s some facsimile of the Vikings’ real defense out there.

No player can prove he’s the answer to a prayer during preseason, but he sure can prove there’s going to be plenty left to be worried about. That’s the best way to describe Smith’s first foray into the second-guesser’s spotlight. He gave them plenty of ammunition.

I’m of the opinion that preseason football means even less now than it did two years ago. Everybody is playing not to get hurt. Starters play 10-15 plays, if that much. After that, the games are no different than a bunch of Delaware State guys getting together for a pickup game.

Inexperienced, young players are trying to figure out where to go as much as they are trying to impress the head coach. That’s why David Carr looked so good.

In the aftermath, I actually bought Jimmy Raye’s explanation for Smith’s poor stats in the exhibition opener. Raye says Smith tried too hard to get the ball down the field.

Fair enough. Dumping the ball off to running backs in the preseason really doesn’t prove much. I get that, but if Alex Smith is out there trying to prove something, Niner fans have a whole lot more praying to do.

 

Random thoughts

– The Giants have thrown in just enough clunkers the last few weeks that it feels like they’re going to get steamrolled from here. Their patched-together lineup is starting to sprout a few holes.

Adding Jose Guillen to the team officially throws the Giants’ defense in the category of hold-your-breath, put-your-hands-over-your-eyes scary.

– The one thing nobody talked about when Dustin Johnson was penalized two strokes on the final hole of the PGA Championship was the magnitude of the moment, and how that may have played into the equation.

Johnson was concentrating so hard on getting the ball to the green, he simply did not think to ask for help. Sure it was impossible to tell that his ball was in a sand trap, but PGA Tour players ask for interpretations of rules every week under far less questionable circumstances.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

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