Aldon Smith: San Francisco 49ers’ Defensive X-Factor vs. Green Bay Packers
In his first three seasons, Aldon Smith has established himself as one of the best pass rushers in all the NFL as to date he has 42 career sacks with 8.5 of those coming this season despite only playing in 11 games. At the same time, Smith had to miss five games this 2013 season as he made a conscious and mature decision to go to rehab and address his personal issues for his long term well-being.
After Smith returned from his stint at rehab, he has recorded four sacks with two of those coming in two games against the Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As the San Francisco 49ers get ready to take on the Green Bay Packers in an NFC Wild Card Playoff game on Sunday, the 49ers will need for Smith to play at a high level and be a thorn in the side of Aaron Rodgers on Sunday afternoon.
Since Smith returned to playing action after his rehab stint, his play has clearly been below that of what he has shown and what made him one of the league’s best pass rushers his first two seasons. Part of that has had to do with the fact that he was eased into playing all three downs once he returned so his numbers and his play as a result were always going to see a dip from previous levels.
In the games that Smith has played so far this season, he has shown that when he is on his game he can terrorize a defense and the opposing left tackle like no other. In the 49ers Week 1 win over the Packers, Smith had himself a fine game as he was able to exploit a below average to average at best Packers offensive line and record 1.5 sacks for the game. Given that the Packers’ offensive line still has its struggles at times against better pass rushing defenses, Smith should be able to have his way on Sunday. There is no reason for him not to be a major x-factor on defense and a big reason for a playoff win.