With Smith out, 49ers' Tolzien a snap away

SAN FRANCISCO -- A few thoughts after the San Francisco 49ers named Alex Smith, LaMichael James, Brandon Jacobs, A.J. Jenkins, Joe Looney, Trenton Robinson and Ian Williams inactive for Monday night:

  • We knew Smith would not play. Seeing his name on the inactive list brought into focus, at least for me, how easily Scott Tolzien could become a relevant player for the 49ers. Tolzien is the team's third-string quarterback. He is usually inactive. He has never played in a regular-season game. The 49ers liked what he offered longer term well enough to keep him on the roster over veteran Josh Johnson, who had played for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh at the University of San Diego.

  • Receiver Kyle Williams would be the third quarterback if injuries knocked out starter Colin Kaepernick and Tolzien.

  • Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter are the only pure halfbacks "up" for this game. That is standard operating procedure for the 49ers. I wondered whether they might activate Jacobs or James as part of a plan to run the ball even more. That could make sense with second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick making his first start. The 49ers don't necessarily need additional backs to run the ball more, however. Fullback Anthony Dixon played halfback previously.

  • Imagine if someone had told you before the season that the 49ers would play this Monday night game without their top two draft choices (Jenkins and James) or Jacobs, one of their better-known additions in free agency. Now, imagine if someone had told you the 49ers would play without those guys voluntarily. It's a testament to the 49ers' depth and general good health. It's also frustrating for those players and for fans eager to see what each could offer.