YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- Deep passes are still not Alex Smith's strong suit, even with the 49ers' restocked corps of speedy wideouts.
Smith has attempted only four passes of at least 20 yards, second fewest among NFL starting quarterbacks, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
Smith could be tempted to air it out Sunday against a New York Jets secondary that's lost All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis to a season-ending knee injury.
"Don't know what to expect," Smith said of the Jets' revised, Revis-free schemes. "There's the unknown right there."
One of those 49ers' newcomers, Mario Manningham, knows their pass offense hasn't flourished with Smith during a 2-1 start to this high-expectations season.
"We're not fully on the same page like we want to be -- me and him, or him and the other wideouts," Manningham said. "But I feel like we're getting there."
Manningham's longest catch of the season was a 22-yard effort to open the 49ers' final drive of Sunday's 24-13 loss at Minnesota. One snap later, Smith was sacked and lost a fumble to kill the comeback.
Jets coach Rex Ryan is convinced the 49ers have the talent to go deep, and he read off that "long list" of options with a sense of genuine admiration during his conference call with Bay Area media.
"You've got Ted Ginn, you've got Manningham, you've got Randy Moss, oh-by-the-way (Michael) Crabtree, and you have the most explosive tight end in football? Yeah you can throw the ball down field," Ryan said.
That tight end, Vernon Davis, has four touchdown catches this season, and although Sunday's was a 1-yard score, it immediately followed a 20-yard reception by Davis.
Getting the ball past that 20-yard mark remains a familiar barrier.
Added Ryan: "People are probably smart and say, 'Let's not give them throws down the field and make them throw it underneath.' You'd rather give up a single than a home run."
That is a major factor why Smith went 249 consecutive passes without an interception before an errant, 18-yard pass sailed into enemy hands Sunday in Minnesota.
Smith is averaging almost the same yards-per-attempt as last season: 7.0 this season, 7.1 in 2011. He's completed 3 of 4 attempts of at least 20 yards, for 63 total yards. Only the Buffalo Bills' Ryan Fitzpatrick has gone deep fewer times (1 of 3, 30 yards), according to ProFootballFocus.com.
"Looking back on Sunday, could we have taken more shots? For sure," Smith said. "But in hindsight it's so easy to say. When you're in the heat of the game, you're just trying to score, just trying to move the chains and do whatever it takes."
It took more than 13 points to beat the Vikings, who kept safeties deep and invited Smith to throw short passes all day.
Two particular passes still irk Smith: He overthrew Moss on a potential 18-yard touchdown reception, and Moss' hands couldn't snag a high, 13-yard pass.
"If we hit those two, we're not talking about this, especially with him," Smith said. "We've got a lot of guys who can make plays. We'll continue to spread the ball around and go to the best matchup."
Despite the lack of deep catches, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh says Smith is "operating in the 'A' category." Then again, Harbaugh also noted: "None of us are 100 percent on all of our decisions."
Smith, believe it or not, is on pace to pass for a career-high 3,418 yards, trumping last season's tally of 3,144 yards.
Asked if more deep passes could come his way the more chemistry he develops with Smith, Manningham replied: "I don't call the plays. I don't know."
Ryan doesn't know what the 49ers will try, either.
Ryan also thinks Smith is "much more talented than the national perception he gets credit for. ... I was hoping he wasn't as good as he is."
Harbaugh's response when asked by New York media about the officiating in the Seahawks-Packers game: "You know, that's something coaches aren't in the position to talk about. It feels really disrespectful being asked that question."
Ryan, meanwhile, doled out a slew of respect in singling out most 49ers starters. Ryan called Davis the league's best tight end, Anthony Davis a Pro Bowl-caliber right tackle and Justin Smith the NFL's premier interior defensive lineman. Ryan also hailed the 49ers' offensive and defensive coordinators, Greg Roman and Vic Fangio, both of whom he worked with on the Baltimore Ravens staff in 2006-07.
Ryan shared a humorous tale in which he mistook Alex Smith for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers during a brief chat before the "NFL Honors" ceremony in February.
"I went, 'Good luck tonight' and had a 30-second conversation with him," Ryan recalled. "Then later I walked out and said, 'Wait a second, there's Aaron Rodgers, and that must be Alex Smith.' I felt so bad."
49ers (2-1) at N.Y. Jets (2-1), 10 a.m., FOX