The recognition for the resurgent San Francisco 49ers continues to roll in as rookie outside linebacker/defensive end Aldon Smith was named NFL Defensive Player of the Month for October. He finished the month with 17 tackles, 6.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one safety and three passes defensed. He became the first 49ers player to record a sack in four consecutive games since Andre Carter did it in 2002. The last 49ers rookie to win a player of the month award was Patrick Willis in December 2007.
The September winner was Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. The Redskins use him as an every down linebacker, which will keep him in the running for the award. Through two months, Kerrigan has 33 total tackles (four for a loss), two sacks, 13 QB pressures, an interception, four passes defensed and two forced fumbles.
At this point the race for defensive rookie of the year will likely include Smith, Kerrigan, Von Miller and Patrick Peterson to some extent. There are a host of other rookies that could get hot over the next two months, but these four players are the highest profile rookies to date. The folks at Sports Illustrated published their mid-season predictions and they had Von Miller winning.
Although Ryan Kerrigan is getting an every down role, Aldon Smith would seemingly get the boost of playing for a higher profile winning team. He accumulated almost all of his stats during the month of October, so if he can maintain something resembling his current pace, he would likely have worthy stats for the award. It will be interesting to see how his playing time adjusts over the next two months and whether he gets more outside linebacker time. For now it might depend on injuries, but we'll just have to wait and see.