As we have rolled through the first quarter of the season, one of the big performances for the 49ers defense belongs to Aldon Smith. Through four games he has 4.5 sacks, with other sack opportunities negated by penalties. More importantly, as Eric Branch points out, Aldon Smith has a shot at breaking Reggie White's record for quickest to 20 career sacks.
Aldon Smith has 18.5 sacks through 20 games and Reggie White registered his 20th sack in game 22. This weekend, Aldon Smith will get some opportunities to rush Ryan Fitzpatrick, and with two members of the Bills offensive line out of commission, he could have a shot at getting the 1.5 sacks needed to surpass Reggie White.
There is a lot of football left this season, and hopefully in young Aldon's career, but he is establishing himself very quickly as a premier pass rusher. Add in his development as a stand-up outside linebacker and he is putting himself in a position to be an absolute terror for the foreseeable future.
Lost amidst all the hubbub for Aldon Smith is the fact that Ahmad Brooks is acquitting himself quite nicely in the first year of his new contract. While his numbers do not jump out at you (two sacks and 12 total tackles), he provides an incredibly steady presence opposite Smith. When he moved into the starting lineup last year, I was a bit concerned that he was a little too specialized as a push rusher. However, he showed he could hold steady on the edge against the run and even drop back in coverage on occasion.
If Aldon continues inching towards double digit sacks again, I have to think defenses will find themselves overreacting to stop him, and potentially opening the door for Ahmad Brooks to pad his stats a bit. I don't know how long it will take, but I think at some point we see Smith's numbers appear to slow down as Brooks' numbers spike. Consider that one of my "bold predictions" as we move towards the second quarter of the season.