We break down 49ers OLB Aldon Smith's current standing in the NFL sack race, and what his matchup looks like on Sunday against the Saints.
Although he has only played in 26 regular season games, Aldon Smith is making some serious history early in his career. Through 26 games, Aldon has 29.0 sacks, which is the third most through two seasons since 1982 (when the NFL first began recording sacks). Reggie White had 31.0 and Derrick Thomas had 30.0 Of course, Aldon still has six games left in his second season, so he has a very real shot of shooting past two of the greatest pass rushers of all time, at this point in their careers.
This year in particular, he is in what could be turning into a classic battle for the NFL sacks lead. Aldon is battling J.J. Watt and Von Miller for the right to declare themselves the best pass rusher in the league. Demarcus Ware was in the race, but a zero on Thanksgiving has him a bit further back.
J.J. Watt played on Thanksgiving, and three days after Aldon Smith blew up the Bears on Monday Night Football for 5.5 sacks, Watt grabbed three sacks of his own. As we head into the main course of Week 12, Smith leads the league with 15.0 sacks, Watt is second with 14.5 and Von Miller is third with 13.0.
Sunday will see Aldon Smith and the 49ers traveling to face the New Orleans Saints, while Von Miller and the Broncos travel to face the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs offensive line has struggled, ranking No. 23 in adjusted sack rate. The Saints line ranks No. 8 in adjusted sack rate.
Things could get interesting for the Saints line on Sunday. Starting right tackle Zach Strief is listed as questionable with a groin injury that has cost him a couple games. He was limited all week in practice and there is no word yet on whether he will play. If he cannot go, his backup Charles Brown is out with a knee issue, leaving undrafted rookie free agent Bryce Harris as the potential right tackle. The 49ers often send Aldon Smith over the left side of the offensive line, but they mixed it up quite a bit against the Bears. And even if Smith stays over the left side of the offensive line, that could open up Ahmad Brooks for some potential sacks.
Drew Brees is quick with his reads and does a good job getting the ball out before pressure gets to him. Getting pressure on the right side of the offensive line could be pivotal in slowing down this dynamic Saints passing attack.