The San Francisco 49ers revealed their first piece of good news, as defensive tackle Justin Smith has undergone successful surgery to repair his torn triceps. According to general manager Trent Baalke, the 49ers expect a quick rehab for Smith. They believe that he’ll be ready for the beginning of training camp.
The veteran’s return to form bodes well for the organization, as he has been an anchor on their line for the past five seasons. Even though he will be turning 34 years old in September, the “Cowboy” remains one of the top tackles in the league. However, given his recent injury, Baalke and his staff should consider looking for a suitable backup to give Smith a breather once in a while. He was one of the leaders in snaps played last season.
San Francisco’s defensive formula for having their starters play nearly every down was successful to a certain degree. The team ranked third in total defense, but if the 49ers want to make another run at the Super Bowl, they have to keep Smith and the veterans fresh during the regular season. Implementing a deeper rotation would be one method worth exploring.
The upcoming NFL draft has depth at the defensive line positions, so the 49ers can either select a prospect to learn behind the All-Pro, or they could bring back impending free agent Ricky Jean Francois.
Smith’s presence has also been vital to Aldon Smith’s success. Without Justin at full strength, Aldon struggled late last year, failing to record a sack in his final six games. Perhaps fatigue and offenses game planning for the second-year linebacker played a role, but the Smiths are clearly linked together on the field.
Although the elder Smith is a proven iron man, he can’t do it alone. Reinforcements are needed in 2013 to preserve his high motor.
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