SANTA CLARA During the second quarter of Saturday's 49ers exhibition game against the Raiders, Alex Smith looked to his left and saw that wide receiver Braylon Edwards was matched against a cornerback in press coverage. When Smith looked again, the cornerback's back was to him.
Edwards wasn't open, but Smith decided it was a gamble worth taking and let the ball sail.
"It's not necessarily just size," Smith said of Edwards, who is 6-foot-4 and 213 pounds. "There's a lot of other big guys that play the position. But it's also about a guy's ability to make a play on the ball in the air. Braylon definitely has that ability.
"If he's got one-on-one (coverage), you're going to take that shot because you feel his ability is going to protect that throw. It's going to be him or no one (catching the ball)."
In this case, it was Edwards. He extended an arm, and in one motion snared the ball, did a barrel roll along the sideline and then popped up to his feet. The play turned into a 32-yard reception and set up the 49ers' first score.
Smith and Edwards met in 2005 when they went through a predraft media blitz together. But they've only been teammates for 20 days, forcing them to make up for lost time.
They throw together before and after practices, and days off have been spent in the film room, making sure there are no doubts about what the other is thinking on a play.
"Alex and I have been at this now for seven years," Edwards said. "Wherever you go, there's ways of getting that chemistry together, be it after practice, before practice, off days. If you take it upon yourself, you can get that chemistry right. And it feels like we're doing that."
Although the 49ers are heading into only their third exhibition game Saturday, it seems as if Smith and Edwards already have a rapport. Smith has thrown toward Edwards five times. The first pass, which came on a slant, was behind the receiver and incomplete. The last four have been completions.
Edwards has 58 receiving yards one fewer yard than team leader Kyle Williams after two exhibition games. That's significant considering that Edwards hasn't started a game. That honor has gone to Joshua Morgan and Ted Ginn, who could be the starters when the season begins Sept. 11.
It's likely that Edwards, who pleaded guilty to a DUI charge this summer, will be suspended when the season begins. Furthermore, last year's No. 1 wideout, Michael Crabtree, will have just recovered from a serious foot injury by the start of the season and it's still uncertain how much he will play.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman, however, said that Ginn's starting spot he was the 49ers' No. 3 receiver last season had nothing to do with Edwards' or Crabtree's uncertain situations for the season opener.
"I think Ted has had an incredibly good camp, too," Roman said. "Whatever reps Ted gets, or whatever status Ted gets, Ted has earned it. It's day to day, really, with all of our players."
Smith agreed. He said good communication from the coaching staff and the long hours at training camp have forged solid chemistry with all of his receivers.
It's Edwards, however, who is pressing the hardest for a strong relationship with the guy who is expected to be throwing him passes this season. When Edwards was deliberating whether to sign with the 49ers earlier this month, team officials stressed that they had a young receiving corps and that Edwards had an opportunity to lead it.
He seems to be making the most of that chance.
"The guy is a professional," Smith said. "He works hard on it. He's even on me sometimes, saying. 'Let's go throw after (practice).' He's very professional in how he goes about his job, aside from his ability. Just talking work ethic here, how he approaches the game, almost from a lifestyle.
"He takes it very seriously. He's putting everything into it. You appreciate that as a quarterback."