Goals to be accomplished in training camp

1. See the No. 1 pick grow. The 49ers would love Alex Smith to immediately prove that he's the best quarterback on the roster. He is going to have to beat out incumbent Tim Rattay and improving Ken Dorsey for the job.

Smith is still unsigned, but all indications point to Smith arriving at training camp on time to begin competing for a job. He participated in all of the minicamps and had perfect attendance at the club's organized team activities.

With Smith under center, the 49ers would add a lot more flexibility with their offense. Smith has the ability to be a threat as a passer and a runner. He is the most athletic quarterback on the team's roster. He is also a quick learner, but it is uncertain if he'll be able to pick up Mike McCarthy's offense quick enough to start from Day 1.

Even if Smith does not start the regular-season opener Sept. 11 against the Rams, he should be able to put himself in position to gain the starting job midway through the season if the starter should falter or is injured.

2. Find pieces to fit in secondary.

The 49ers did not have much depth at cornerback to begin with, but the coaching staff decided it was time to switch Mike Rumph to free safety. Rumph has been up and down as a cornerback in his three-year career, and he started just two games last season due to injuries.

If Rumph adapts as well as the 49ers believe, he should team with strong safety Tony Parrish to give the team a solid last line of defense. But the team's situation at cornerback is a little tenuous.

The 49ers attempted to do something about their lack of depth with the acquisition of cornerback Willie Middlebrooks from the Broncos. Coach Mike Nolan said Middlebrooks should earn one of the team's top three spots, as he will have the opportunity to compete against Ahmed Plummer and Shawntae Spencer for a starting job.

If Middlebrooks is unable to win a starting job, he will be in competition against Rayshun Reed and rookies Derrick Johnson and Daven Holly for the role as the team's No. 3 corner.

3. Develop a play-maker.

The 49ers overhauled their offensive line, and now they need to find some explosive skill players.

Arnaz Battle and Brandon Lloyd are penciled in as the starting receivers, and veteran Johnnie Morton gives the unit its only proven NFL performer. Battle has the potential to develop into a top-flight receiver but he has caught only eight passes in his first two seasons in the league.

Lloyd is adept at making the highlight-reel kind of catch. He led the 49ers with six touchdown receptions a year ago but he has a difficult time getting open against physical corners.

Running back Kevan Barlow struggled last season, as he was clearly frustrated with the lack of holes opened by the offensive line. He averaged just 3.4 yards a carry. The addition of third-round draft pick Frank Gore should light a fire under Barlow, who showed his immense talent in 2003 with a 1,000-yard rushing performance while starting just four games.


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