San Francisco 49ers: Does Aldon Smith Depend on Justin Smith to Succeed?


Dec 9, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith (99) sacks Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) during the second quarter at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

A lot has been made about how Aldon Smith did not record any sacks after Justin Smith got hurt against the New England Patriots, and because of Aldon’s sack drought, some feel that Aldon depends on Justin to be successful. While it may look that way on the surface, I feel that is not the case.

Aldon has accounted for 33.5 sacks in only two years in the NFL. That total after the first two years is more than the two year total of any other pass-rusher in the history of the NFL, including Reggie White, Bruce Smith, Derrick Thomas and Lawrence Taylor. He has settled in nicely as one of the premier edge-rushers in the game.

If you watch Aldon closely, you will see that he has a variety of moves to get to the quarterback. His elite abilities were on display this past season in a game against the Chicago Bears. He was able to get around offensive linemen Gabe Carmini and J’Marcus Webb using a bull rush move, a nice stutter step and inside slash move along with the infamous tackle/end stunt with Justin. His bull rush was also on display in a Monday Night Football game from 2011 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, when he constantly pushed Max Starks back into Ben Rothlisberger’s face.

Justin does a very good job of getting engaged with lineman on the tackle/end stunt. He is able to grab their jersey and hold them while Aldon uses his speed to loop inside and get the sack. At times, Justin occupies both the guard and tackle giving Aldon a free run to the QB. This play has resulted in a good deal of sacks for Aldon but is not the sole reason for his success.

Aldon still has to get to the QB even though a lot of sacks and pressure are from the stunt with Justin that opens up an easier path. It takes a good deal of speed to make that long loop back inside and get to the quarterback. Again, the stunt is just one way that Aldon gets pressure. He still makes a living rushing from the outside and winning one on one matchups against tackles.

There are not many guys that can get around the edge as fast as Aldon. He is a complete pass rusher. One of the things that he does best is his ability to use his hands to keep offensive linemen from getting to his chest plate. He has very quick and violent hands that he uses to slap linemen’s hands away. He also has abnormally long arms, allowing him to get the first punch before the offensive linemen get to him.

Things did get a bit more difficult for Aldon once Justin got injured. The thing that many people don’t realize is that at some point Aldon got injured too, as he had to have shoulder surgery performed once the season was over. That surely was a major reason why Aldon slowed down as well.

At some point Justin will begin to slow down and possibly not even be a 49er any longer. The front office knows this and that’s why they valued Tank Carradine as much as they did coming into the draft.

When this happens, many will see that even if Justin is not playing, Aldon still is an elite pass rusher.