Late last night, Eric Branch posted an article that I found rather interesting. Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride had a chance to talk about the 49ers defense and amidst flowery praise, he had a pointed comment about all-world defensive lineman Justin Smith:
"Smith is a beast on the inside," Gilbride said to the New York media. "He's strong, he does as good a job of grabbing a hold of offensive linemen and allowing those twists to take place. He never gets called for it, so he gets away with murder."
It is not particularly surprising to see Gilbride raise an issue with a specific player. Coaches are looking for any edge they can get, and pointing out little things like that might help eventually get the attention of referees. It seems like anytime there is a mic'd up segment with a coach, you'll hear them say something to a referee before the game about player X or player Y and watch out for this or that.
On a side note about Smith, earlier today I pointed to some comments Vic Fangio had about Justin Smith being held without a sack thus far. Branch's article included some great commentary from Hall of Fame defensive lineman Howie Long regarding Smith:
"Down in and down out, he's just going to beat you up and you have to match that. You have to match that physicality on an every-snap basis. And that's hard to do. When you get hit with a hammer enough, you start to look away and blink a little bit. The first 15 plays, I don't want to say they're easy, but it's play 20 through play 40 where you start to see people blink."
Justin Smith really can wear you out. He'll be facing a stiff challenge this week against a Giants offensive line that is doing some great work. Football Outsiders ranks them first in adjusted sack rate and fourth in adjusted line yards. It's safe to say he will have to wear this line down all day long.