Ready or not, the NFL is going to be receiving a full dose of Aldon Smith this season. Together with Justin Smith, arguably the cornerstone of the vaunted 49ers defense, the young pass-rusher formed a tenacious tandem on the right side of the defense in 2011.
Much of the rookie’s success came from the attention Justin Smith received at the line of scrimmage. The veteran defensive end often commanded double teams from the opposition, freeing up Aldon Smith to use his pursuit skills on the quarterback.
Defensive players praised coordinator Vic Fangio for his ability to put them in an effective system yet give them the freedom to improvise and make plays. Perhaps no duo was more deadly than Justin (7.5 sacks) and Aldon Smith (14.0 sacks), who worked to create some high-pressure situations on third downs.
Aldon Smith is expected to step in to the starting role at right outside linebacker this year and join forces with fellow his fellow Missouri alum, meaning more opportunities to cause havoc.
But Fangio isn’t handing the keys to Aldon Smith just yet. He still needs to outperform last season’s starter Parys Haralson, a consistent rock of the 49ers defense from a year ago.
“He’s much farther along than he was compared to a year ago,” Fangio said of Aldon Smith. “But he’s still nowhere near what he needs to be, and it’ll be a work in progress. He’ll be better in game four and five than he is in game one. He’ll be better in game eight or nine than he was in five. It may not always be visible to people because there’s a lot of little things involved, but he’ll be better as we keep going.”
Still, it isn’t stopping Justin Smith from thinking about the possibilities of playing alongside a talented player like Aldon Smith on every down.
“Having a guy that can rush the passer on first and second down, hopefully that translates in to more sacks and longer third downs and second downs,” Justin Smith said. “I think that’s big, first and second down if you can get a sack and hits on the quarterback. It keeps you from having nickel come on and being so predictable.”
It also sounds like Justin Smith may relinquish some of his select offensive duties to some of the young bucks on the defensive line like Demarcus Dobbs and Will Tukuafu, who took snaps with the offense during the offseason. Justin Smith appeared in a handful of offensive huddles last season and experienced a bit of culture shock.
“Our (play) calls aren’t so long, No. 1,” the All-Pro said. “It’s just different mentality on that side. … You’re listening to the whole call and then running up to the line and doing your job. We tend to jabber a little bit more (on defense).”
The 49ers are fine-tuning their defense this season and it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the league. Fangio pushed all the right buttons in his first year as Jim Harbaugh’s defensive coordinator in 2011, guiding one the league’s most complete defenses.
San Francisco allowed just three rushing touchdowns in 18 games while leading the league in rush defense (77.2 yards per game), turnover differential (plus-28) and ranking second in the league in scoring defense (14.3 points allowed per game).
What’s scary is Justin Smith and the 49ers expect to improve heading into 2012.
“You can actually see some of the things you did last year and some of the stuff you need working on instead of just implementing the playbook and trying to understand what they want you to accomplish,” Smith said. “You can actually start tweaking your defense and try to make some of the subtle things that you haven’t done so well last year and make those better instead of just starting from square one.”
Tags: Aldon Smith, Justin Smith
Posted in Announcements | 4 Comments »