SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 19: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers fumbles the ball after being sacked by Aldon Smith #99 and Justin Smith #94 of the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on December 19, 2011 in San Francisco, California. Smith recovered the fumble for the 49ers. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh spoke to the media regarding player progress, ensuing OTA's, medical-related news and even the schedule (Green Bay). There was a question to coach Harbaugh about Aldon Smith's progress particularly, and the San Francisco coach had this to say:
"That's somebody else who is really rising fast. Him and Justin Smith are working really well together, in tandem there. It's the same Aldon we saw last season and even better."
This is an exciting bit of information that got lost in a 10+ minute Q & A with the head coach of the Niners. We knew that a lot of the rookie's production was due to having Justin Smith in front of him, but now we're being told that the 49ers know it -- and they are working to perfect it.
Having Aldon and Justin practicing closely together, the youngster is learning so much from the veteran. And Justin Smith is no ordinary veteran; he is one of the league's top defensive players, and arguably the best at his position. Aldon is able to come in and see how Justin puts in the work and does indeed get better everyday.
From a technical perspective, this is extremely great feedback we're getting from Harbaugh about part of the defense. With Justin as a presence on the right side of the defensive line, Aldon is further learning how to use that to his advantage. As good as he was coming off the edge, Aldon excelled at stunting in 2011, as a lot of his pressures and sacks came from doing that.
With time, Aldon's mechanics as a defender will be cleaned up and fine tuned, while he learns to take advantage of Justin's presence schematically.
The more these two practice and play together, the stronger their relationship will become. And they will learn each others playing tendencies and body language. The right side of the 49ers defense was extremely potent and effective against both the run and pass, largely because of these two players. In 2012, they are looking to be even more of a dynamic duo.
It's going to be exciting to see how these two progress, but it's hard to imagine them taking any sort of step backward. This is a can't-lose scenario with an elite veteran defender and an up-and-coming superstar, and I can't wait to see the finished results in September.
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