Martz: Smith's capabilities 'unlimited'

It's all about the offense as the 49ers begin pointing toward next season. SF's offense was a mess in 2007 as the team ranked last in the NFL in several statistical categories, including yards per game, yards per play, passing yards per game, sacks allowed, first downs, third-down efficiency and points. That's why coach Mike Nolan made the bold move of hiring Mike Martz to run the attack.

Martz, the former St. Louis Rams coach, will be running the show on offense as the team's new offensive coordinator. Martz, who led the Rams to two Super Bowls, was fired earlier this year as offensive coordinator with the Detroit Lions.

While Martz is familiarizing himself with the 49ers' offensive personnel, there are a lot of questions in the San Francisco area about what his arrival means for several of the team's players.

The most interesting case is quarterback Alex Smith, who had a lost season in 2007. He got off to a slow start and then sustained a separated right shoulder in the fourth game of the season. When he tried to return after missing several weeks, he was clearly affected by the injury.

Smith eventually had season-ending shoulder surgery. Now, he has been told he will have to compete for the starting job next season with Shaun Hill, whom the club expects to re-sign as an unrestricted free agent.

Martz said he has spoken with Norv Turner about Smith, and that Turner gives Smith positive reviews. Turner was the 49ers' offensive coordinator last season when Smith made significant strides in his second year. Turner has said that he has not seen a young quarterback throw the deep ball as well as Smith.

"He's a very talented young man," Martz said of Smith. "His capabilities might be unlimited."

But there is a lot of work to be done. Martz said he will "strip things away" and make Smith re-learn the quarterback position to fit his unique offensive system.

Hill was the 49ers' most impressive quarterback in 2007. Hill won both of his starts and played very efficiently in his 10 quarters of action. A sixth-year pro, Hill had just two kneeldowns at the end of a blowout game with the Minnesota Vikings in 2005 on his resume prior to this season.

Martz said he likes the accuracy of both quarterbacks, something he says is a must in his system.

Another thing that is a must, Martz says, is to have a receiver who can be a go-to player. In his days with the Rams, Martz had Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. In his two seasons with the Lions, he had Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson.

The receiver corps he inherits with the 49ers consists of Arnaz Battle, Darrell Jackson, Ashley Lelie and Jason Hill.

Battle is a solid player who has been tops among 49ers wideouts the past two seasons. Jackson and Lelie did not live up to expectations in their first year with the 49ers. Hill rarely got on the field as a rookie despite being a third-round draft pick.

"To say that none of those guys can do that, I don't know that," Martz said in a radio interview. "You do need a guy who can get down the field. I think there's some speed there and some capabilities of doing that."

Tight end Vernon Davis has plenty of speed. If he catches onto the system quickly, he could stand to benefit more than anyone else on the 49ers offense. Martz has never had such a physically talented tight end, so his creativity will be tested.

Martz said the talent on the 49ers offense is much better than the situation he had with the Lions. He said there are good parts to the 49ers offense, but the pieces just need to fit together.

One position group that Martz has raved about is the offensive line. Although that unit was up and down throughout the season, Martz said he sees a lot of potential from that group, especially Joe Staley, who started every game at right tackle as a rookie.

Martz did not have to see much from running back Frank Gore to realize he would be the "centerpiece" of the offense. Gore had what many thought was an "off year," but he still ranked sixth in the NFL in yards from scrimmage. He has led the 49ers in receptions each of the past two seasons.

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Niners defensive end Marques Douglas had a big contract year. He ranked fourth on the 49ers with 100 tackles and was first among all NFL defensive linemen with 12 tackles for loss.

Douglas makes his offseason home in Charlotte, N.C., but he said he does not want to leave the West Coast. The day after the season, he met with his coaches and expressed his desire to re-signed as a free agent.

"I just wanted to let them know when I left (San Francisco for the offseason) that if they would have me, I'd love to be back," Douglas said. "I just wanted to put an end (to) any rumors that I was seeking other employment or I wanted to go back home, because that's not true. I have roots out there now. ... My family really loves it there."

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Backup quarterback Trent Dilfer, whose return next season is in question, will be at the Senior Bowl to call the game in the booth with the NFL Network. Coach Mike Nolan said the last time he spoke to Dilfer about his future, it was decided that no doors would be closed.

The 49ers have an opening at quarterbacks coach, but Nolan said he does not consider Dilfer a candidate for that opening.

"He's still a player for us at this time," Nolan said. "We have not had any discussions about what Trent's going to do future-wise, other than the one we had a couple weeks before the season ended. When we left each other at that time, he just said, 'Please, leave everything open. I don't have my mind made up on anything at this point.' I said, 'That's fine.'"

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The 49ers are coaching the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, this week, so Nolan will give the staff a week off the week following the game.

When asked when he expects offensive players to begin coming in during the offseason to learn the new offense from Martz, Nolan said, "They're not supposed to until the offseason program begins in March. But the guys can come in. He's already spoken to them on the phone. But he has not been in the office to engage with them in any way. I'm sure when he gets back in February, they'll come in and meet with him face-to-face more and at least get to work on the relationship. That's a big part of the whole thing."

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The 49ers and the agent for quarterback Shaun Hill have exchanged contract proposals designed at keeping him off the free-agent market. The sides have agreed to the structure of the deal, but not the financial side of it.

Hill will be given an opportunity to compete for a starting job, something he may not get anywhere else in the league. Therefore, it makes sense that the 49ers and Hill would reach an agreement before the start of free agency on Feb. 29.

Douglas and nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga, scheduled to be unrestricted free agents, have also expressed their desires to re-sign with the 49ers.

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The 49ers have hired Ted Tollner to an unspecified spot on the coaching staff. He could coach quarterbacks. The 49ers fired Bishop Harris as running backs coach. They did not have the position filled in time to coach in the Senior Bowl. Therefore, Tollner is coaching the running backs and Martz is coaching the quarterbacks.

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Mark Uyeyama has joined the 49ers' coaching staff as assistant strength coach.

Uyeyama joins the 49ers after serving as the head strength and conditioning coach for the Utah State University Athletic Department from 2004-07.

Uyeyama graduated from Utah in May of 2000 while working as a student assistant strength coach for two years. He then became a graduate assistant at USU before moving to another graduate assistant position at Arizona State from May 2001-May 2003 when he was promoted to a full-time assistant.

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The 49ers, who received the Indianapolis Colts' 2008 No. 1 draft pick in a draft weekend trade last year, will have the No. 29 pick in this year's opening round.

The Green Bay Packers will pick 30th and the New York Giants 31st overall. The New England Patriots, who would have the 32nd and final selection in the first round, forfeited their first-round pick because of SpyGate.

The Patriots, however, hold the 49ers' first-round draft pick - the No. 7 overall - as a result of the draft-weekend trade last year that brought New England's late 2007 first-round pick to San Francisco. The 49ers used that pick to select offensive tackle Joe Staley.

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QUOTE TO NOTE: "I was happy, man. I mean, Mike Nolan and the coaching staff, they're not the issue. They don't play games and don't cross that white line. I'd never pin my loss or my lack of production on the coach. Those guys spent countless hours trying to get us ready to go on the field and they did a tremendous job this year. With all of the drama between the media and the coaches, they were always consistent with us. They were always giving it their all and not letting those outside factors determine how we were going to be prepared on Sunday." -- 49ers DE Marques Douglas, when he heard Nolan was retained for a fourth season as head coach.

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