Is Alex Smith on the verge of his long awaited breakout season?

In 43 career games, 49ers quarterback Alex Smith has completed just 56.1 percent of his passes for 7,029 yards with 37 touchdowns and 43 inceptions.

Those numbers aren’t good for any quarterback, nevertheless one that was taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft. But considering this will be the first time in his career that he’ll have the opportunity to work with the same offensive coordinator two years in a row, good things might be on the horizon for the former Utah product.

Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye is giving Smith more responsibility this year, including setting alignments and reading defenses out of the shotgun on third downs. That was something that Raye admits Smith wasn’t ready for last season.

Asked if Smith was prepared to handle that last year, the always honest Raye said, “Not really. He had some idea. Some of it was, ‘I hope I’m right, if not, run to the right.'”

Bill Walsh used to hate the shotgun because it required the quarterback to take his eyes off the defense for a split second when he got the snap. But if it works for Smith, then it works for Raye and the 49ers. It’s time for the team to trust that the 26-year-old signal caller is ready to take the next step and get San Fran back into the playoffs.

One of Smith’s teammates, tight end Vernon Davis, also recently applauded the quarterback’s improved leadership skills.

“He’s talking. He’s vocal. He’s taking control and being that guy you want on your team — a guy who’s going to step up and take charge and handle his responsibilities,” Davis said.

Outside of shaky performances against the Cardinals (Week 14) and Eagles (Week 15) in back to back weeks late in the year, Smith played very well last season after taking over for Shaun Hill in a Week 7 game against the Texans. It’s early, but things look to be aligning for the sixth-year quarterback.

I like Smith this year as part of a two-man or three-man committee. In 11 starts, he averaged 214 yards and 1.6 pass TD against 1.1 interceptions per game. He wasn’t brilliant, but he was for the most part solid, and with an offseason to work with Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree, Smith should perform well in good matchups. I’d expect him to finish somewhere in the QB10 to QB17 range, which makes him a prime target for a QBBC.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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