After a failed evaluation/pursuit/whatever of Peyton Manning by the 49ers, quarterback Alex Smith is feeling the heat. Even if neither Smith nor anyone else with the 49ers will admit it.
And while his leash could be long enough to withstand a slow start to the season and an inability to effectively distribute the ball to the team’s impressive array of pass-catchers and ball-carriers who can’t distribute the ball to themselves, the identity of the backup in San Fran becomes critical — if Smith ends up not playing due to injury or due to a decision to move on to Plan B.
It’s unknown at this point whether Plan B will be Colin Kaepernick or Josh Johnson. Starting Friday, they’ll battle it out for the right to back up Smith.
“I just want to keep working on getting my feet quicker, getting through reads quicker and taking pressure off the offensive line,” said Kaepernick, a second-round pick selected one spot after Bengals Pro Bowl quarterback Andy Dalton, via Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News.
Johnson, who started his career in Tampa after playing for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh at the University of San Diego, has an attitude that, if backed up by performance, could result in a climb to the top of the depth chart, eventually. “My mindset is to be in control of theo ffense and run the show,” Johnson said. “When you’re under center, it’s your offense. There’s only one quarterback out there at a time.”
The one quarterback to start the season will be Smith. The one quarterback behind him will be Johnson or Kaepernick. Though it’s hardly one of the most important story lines for training camp now, come November or December it could end up having been the biggest.