Aldon Smith turned in an impressive performance in his first career start last Sunday. The young outside linebacker notched four tackles and a sack to help the San Francisco 49ers defense hold the Packers offense to 16 points.
Smith produced the type of relentless performance through all four quarters that Jim Harbaugh so often advocates, and which the coach praised his team for producing in Green Bay.
The team’s pass rusher extraordinaire will be asked to replicate his Week 1 performance when the 49ers take the field for their home opener on Sunday against the Detroit Lions.
When asked to address his likely matchup with veteran Lions left tackle Jeff Backus, Smith said his approach is simple.
“He’s a tackle,” Smith said. “I play end and linebacker. I am going to rush.”
Smith, the seventh overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, played all but two of the plays in which the San Francisco defense was on the field against Green Bay. The second-year pro said he felt fresh all game and it seemed that way, especially considering how well the team’s entire front seven played down the stretch.
“I felt pretty good,” Smith said. “I think I came out maybe two plays, but my cardio is good. I’m in shape and I didn’t have a problem playing the whole game.”
Smith spent more of the game lining up as a defensive end — the position he saw most of his playing time at last season — than he did at outside linebacker. The 49ers worked outside their base package for the better part of the afternoon against the pass-happy Green Bay attack.
In his breakout rookie campaign, Smith registered 42 tackles and led the team in sacks with 14, a total that was best among NFL rookies all while taking the field almost exclusively on passing downs.
Vic Fangio was impressed with his young pupil’s stamina, saying Smith looked good throughout the game, even if he wasn’t lined up in his new position for much of it.
“We’ve had games where it was mostly nickel and dime and sub situations, and he played a lot of them,” the 49ers defensive coordinator said. “So, he had those kinds of games last year. He only had six or seven plays against Green Bay where he actually played linebacker.”
If last year’s game between the 49ers and Lions is any guide, Smith can expect to line up as an end for much of the game against the Detroit on Sunday.
In the two teams’ 2011 showdown Detroit passed 50 times compared with just 18 rushing attempts.
“I had about 60-something snaps,” Smith said about the game in Detroit last season. “We were in nickel most of the time, so I was an end. I’m pretty sure we will play a lot between base and nickel (this week).”
That possibility bodes well for Smith.
Already one of the most feared pass rushers off the edge in the NFL, Smith had one of his best games of his young career in Detroit last season when he played most of the game following an injury to Parys Haralson.
Smith sacked Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford twice in the two teams’ meeting last season. The first sack occurred in the end zone for a safety during the second quarter as he finished the day with four tackles.
At this point, the young pass rusher can only hope to have a game on par with his performance in Detroit last season, but only time will tell when the two teams take the field on Sunday Night Football.
Tags: Aldon Smith, Vic Fangio
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