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The next step for 49ers QB Smith

Frank Gore had five runs covering 10-plus yards against the Cardinals on Monday night. Quarterback Alex Smith lined up under center on four of them.

Smith had five passes covering 10-plus yards in the game. All five came from the shotgun formation with three wide receivers on the field.

As Smith gains experience, the 49ers want him to become more effective across personnel groups and when lined up under center.

"I think he knows in order to be the player that he wants to be, and to be more of a well-rounded player, I think he wants to be able to have that base situation where it's two backs and a tight end, be able to get underneath the center and do that as well and feel comfortable in that," coach Mike Singletary said Tuesday. "He's played maybe a month-and-a-half or so. As we go forward, you're going to see him settle down a bit more and be comfortable in anything that we're running."

The shotgun formation allows the quarterback to read defenses more effectively.

"When you’re in a base situation when you’ve got two backs and a tight end, it’s harder to tell," Singletary said. "Those safeties really have to speak to you then. If they have a lot of experience, they're not going to tell you the truth until the ball is snapped and you only have so much time. So, now it's up to the offensive line."

Against Arizona, Smith averaged 1.5 yards per pass attempt on 14 passes when the 49ers had two wide receivers on the field (this personnel report has all the breakdowns since Week 1). The 49ers averaged 5.1 yards per rush on 20 carries from two-receiver personnel. That gap would have been much harder to overcome if the 49ers hadn't forced so many turnovers (seven overall).

In recent weeks, the 49ers had aligned their "12" personnel group -- one back, two tight ends -- into spread formations featuring shotgun snaps. Smith had been most effective throwing from this personnel and setup, but Gore had disappeared from the offense. The 49ers ran 28 snaps from this personnel against Arizona. They averaged 4.3 yards per carry on 14 rushes, much better than in the recent past, but Smith averaged only 1.4 yards per attempt on 13 passes (there was one sack).

49ers through the air: Week 14

The chart shows how the 49ers' passing game fared by personnel group during a 24-9 victory over Arizona on Monday night. The team had previously made big pass plays from its "22" personnel group featuring two backs and two tight ends, but that was not the case against Arizona.

49ers personnel overview: Week 14

The 49ers averaged more yards per rush than pass attempt against the Cardinals on Monday night. The chart breaks it down.