Sunday afternoon, shortly before the San Francisco 49ers kicked off Sunday Night Football against the Denver Broncos, Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported league sources told him Aldon Smith could potentially return before the end of his 9-game suspension. Trent Baalke subsequently said he had not heard this could happen, so we chalked it up to Florio being Florio.
However, Matt Barrows has also now reported this is a possibility. Barrows reported after the game that a league source said it was a possibility. This obviously does not guarantee it will happen, but having a local media source chiming in gives this a little more credence. Florio rolls out all sorts of anonymous reporting. He is often correct, but he also can be wrong, so we take him with a grain of salt.
Aldon Smith is currently suspended through the 49ers Week 10 contest against the New Orleans Saints. Between now and then, they have a bye this week, and then face the St. Louis Rams at home. I would love to see Aldon Smith back on the field in time for their road trip to New Orleans, but I am not going to get my hopes up. When you start talking about the "possibility", it just raises too many question marks.
That being said, once Aldon Smith does return, the 49ers pass rush should see some improvement. The question then will be how the team uses Ahmad Brooks and Aaron Lynch. Brooks will remain the starter in the base defense, but when the 49ers move to the nickel, I think we can expect to see at least some of Lynch. I could see a rotation, with Lynch coming in more on 3rd and long situations, where he can just pin his ears back and come at the quarterback. On shorter third downs where the 49ers still go nickel, I think we would see Brooks. He is better against the run and in coverage, so you can mix the best of both worlds potentially.