Welcome back to Niners Nation for my 49ers Defensive MVP in the week 6 match-up between San Francisco and Detroit. If you visited yesterday, you may have read that my offensive selection was Frank Gore -- but today, the day belongs to rookie linebacker Aldon Smith.
Now, while this may have been one of the best defensive performances by San Francisco as a unit, Aldon Smith played above and beyond when given opportunities. As it stands, Smith has 5 1/2 sacks on the season which is good enough for 5th in the NFL and 2nd for linebackers behind only DeMarcus Ware.
Already this season, Smith has had repetitions standing up and with his hands in the ground. He seems to be more effective as a down lineman in the 3 and 5 technique where he can propel himself into or around blockers. His opportunities have been coming in nickel packages, and that's where he has excelled.
Smith has an array of pass rushing moves that he has put on display for the world to see in 6 games this season. Only 6 games? This kid's career has barely begun and he's already shown great promise for the future.
Against Detroit, Smith had his first 2-sack game of his young career, including his first, and hopefully not last safety. On the play where he brought down Matthew Stafford in his own end zone, Smith looked like a man possessed -- just unblockable.
It was a 2nd and 10 from the Lions own 11-yard line; Smith was parallel with the defensive line but in a standing position. The unofficial time I recorded from the time the ball was snapped and when Smith connected with Stafford in the end zone was just shy of 4 seconds. That's lightening.
It was even more unbelievable considering how quickly he discarded of Detroit's left tackle as if he were not worthy of Smith's time to bother getting tangled up with him. When Smith is rushing the passer, he understands it is his job to get from point A to point B with limited interruption.
This play was huge at that juncture in the game because the 49ers were hurting themselves with penalties and couldn't generate points. Not only did Smith's play put 2 points on the board for San Francisco, but it gave the 49ers offense the ball back.
A big part of his success is due to how the coaches have been using him; putting him in situations that allow him to use his natural ability as a pass rusher while he is groomed into a complete NFL outside linebacker who can both rush the passer and play coverage.
Aldon Smith is a contender for Defensive Rookie of the Year and is on pace for double-digit sacks in his first season. Additionally, he has only boosted the credibility of four specific men within the organization: Jim Harbaugh, Trent Baalke, Jed York and Jim Tomsula. 6 games into 2011, Smith has 11 tackles, including 5.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 1 safety.
The future of the 49ers linebacking corps looks to be one of the best in the league, comparable to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. Smith has been a force already, capable of creating carnage in the oppositions backfield. With the coaching staff San Francisco has in place and the vision they appear to have, I believe the sky is the limit for Aldon Smith. Time will tell, but so far so good.
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