Ahmad Brooks, Justin Smith and the snap count

Thearon W. Henderson

The 49ers have been able to rotate in players throughout the defensive front, keeping some of the key starters a bit more fresh.

Sunday evening and into Monday, I have seen people asking here and on Twitter "where was Ahmad Brooks against the Rams?" The 49ers outside linebacker had a quiet day, although the pass rush from the outside linebackers as a whole was relatively quiet on the day. That being said, he was in fact out there, getting 49 of a possible 69 snapsAldon Smith finished the game with 54 snaps. The 49ers were able to go to their bench in the fourth quarter, getting Dan Skuta 19 snaps and Corey Lemonier 14 snaps.

It is worth noting, Ahmad Brooks entered the game as questionable, having suffered a stinger the week before. He was limited in practice all week, but was able to make a go of it. I suspect we'll see something similar this week with Aldon ending up with more snaps than Brooks.

The 49ers defense struggled late in the game once the reserves arrived in bulk, but the 49ers have seen their reserves step up on a case-by-case basis. Corey Lemonier and Dan Skuta showed some things when Aldon Smith was in rehab, but the bigger example is Tony Jerod-Eddie. While TJE has had some downs to go with his ups, he's been a very solid backup for Ray McDonald.

The 49ers started TJE after McDonald suffered his high ankle sprain. Now that McDonald is back, TJE, and Demarcus Dobbs, are proving to be a big help for the entire line. We'd prefer seeing Justin Smith and Ray McDonald playing throughout the game, but last year showed us what can happen when the depth is not there. Justin Smith played through a torn triceps muscle, and the 49ers defense suffered through January and February.

McDonald has been a more high profile concern with his injuries, but getting rest for Justin Smith has been key. Matt Barrows had a chat session earlier today, during which he discussed this:

Q: You wrote recently that Justin Smith's strength is all the way back. Are you saying he's playing as well, or nearly as well, as in 2011?

A: He was shoving Jake Long, the former No. 1 pick in the draft, around like Long was made out of straw. He looks good and, perhaps more important, he's gotten more rest this season than in previous years.

The 49ers defense is playing some excellent football right now, and having the ability to rotate Smith and McDonald out for breathers will be key through the rest of the season. If the 49ers can get into January, having Smith and McDonald at as close to full strength as possible will be a pretty huge deal.

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