In Week 3, the San Francisco 49ers were upset and outplayed by the Minnesota Vikings. Like last season, the 49ers have back-to-back road games in the Eastern Time Zone for Weeks 3 and 4 and have decided to spend the week together in Youngstown, Ohio. After a week of practice in their home away from home, the 49ers will head to New Jersey to face the New York Jets in an important Week 4 contest.
With the Arizona Cardinals sitting atop the NFC West with a 3-0 record and the Seattle Seahawks standing right beside the 49ers with a 2-1 record after their "win" against the Green Bay Packers, the 49ers have more competition than expected during this early part of the season. With five straight games against teams who currently have winning records (Jets, Buffalo Bills, New York Giants, Seahawks, Cardinals) before their Week 9 bye, it is important for them to consider all options, even if it means considering an area that is not the team's strong suit.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, 49ers quarterback Alex Smith has only attempted four passes of at least 20 yards. While it's not surprising to see this statistic, it is interesting given the personnel on the 49ers. With new deep threats like Randy Moss and Mario Manningham as well as the most athletic tight end in football in Vernon Davis, Smith certainly has the talented players around him to attempt more deep passes. Even Jets head coach Rex Ryan recognizes the weapons San Francisco has on offense.
"Yeah you can throw the ball down field," Ryan said.
Throwing deep passes hasn't necessarily been a forte of Smith's career. Since 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh's arrival to San Francisco, Smith has significantly cut down on deep passes, thus limiting the mistakes he can make and improving his accuracy. Prior to his first interception of the season against the Vikings on an 18-yard pass attempt, Smith went 249 consecutive passes without a pick because of the team's emphasis on the run.
However, with All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis out for the season with an ACL tear, the 49ers should really consider expanding the play calls to allow for more big plays downfield. While the Jets still have Antonio Cromartie as one of the team's starting cornerbacks, New York will have the combination of Kyle Wilson, Ellis Lankster, and Isaiah Trufant covering 49er receivers. Previously a position of strength, the Jets are even moving backup running back Joe McKnight, who last played cornerback in high school, to the position in order to help offset the loss.
With the Jets facing uncertainty in their secondary, Week 4 would be a great opportunity for throwing more deep passes. With speed and dynamic receivers, the 49ers could capitalize on this and add another layer to their offensive plan. The 49ers certainly have the personnel to run deep routes downfield, now it's a matter of time to see whether they attempt more shots downfield now that "Revis Island" is closed.
San Francisco 49ers' Alex Smith still not throwing deep, Bay Area News Group
More from this contributor:
Austin Chang is a lifelong football fan, San Francisco 49ers supporter, and a Featured Contributor for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @_austinchang.