49ers defensive review: The Aldon Smith Show


49ers defensive review: The Aldon Smith Show

If it weren't for Colin Kaepernick, all anyone would be talking about a day after the 49ers' 32-7 victory over the Chicago Bears would be the performance of 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith.Smith was credited with 5.5 sacks, seven quarterback hits, seven tackles and two forced fumbles in his 48 snaps from scrimmage.He lined up at both end positions, and treated Chicago Bears left tackle J'Marcus Webb and right tackle Gabe Carimi with equal amounts of rudeness. In Pro Football Focus' rating system, Smith ended up with an extraordinary 9.8 grade.Smith was certainly not alone, as far as defensive standouts, but he stood above the rest and should now be considered on any short list of candidates for NFL Defensive Player of the Year with six games remaining.MAIOCCO: Aldon Smith leads strong defensive showing
--Usually, Aldon Smith and Justin Smith work together on the same side in pass-rush situations. Aldon lines up at end and Justin is on the inside, where he generally does a remarkable job of creating openings through which Aldon Smith can get a free run at the quarterback.On Monday, the two Smiths helped each other by playing on opposite sides. This made the Bears decide where to give help. On back-to-back sacks, Aldon Smith lined up at left end, while Justin Smith was at right end. They pretty much had a foot race to greet Bears quarterback Jason Campbell on two sacks.On the second sack, it would've been a shared sack, but Aldon Smith forced the fumble that ultimately resulted in a safety. Therefore, Aldon Smith got full credit for the sack.--Aldon Smith used power moves for 4.5 of his sacks, and he made Carimi whiff on an inside move for his other sack.
--Justin Smith had a 6.3 grade for the game, according to PFF. He was credited with only a half-sack, but he was just a step away from getting a couple others, as Aldon Smith beat him to the quarterback.Justin Smith and Ahmad Brooks, the left outside linebacker, were very effective in pursuit and making tackles from the backside.--Nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga rebounded with a good game. He did a much better job at the point of attack. On the Bears' second drive, he fended off a double-team by center Robert Garza and left guard Chilo Rachal to drop Matt Forte for no gain.--Because Sopoaga did not allow the Bears' interior linemen to get to the second level, inside linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis had big performances. Willis was particularly impressive in pass coverage. He broke up two passes, but he also stopped completions for short gains.--Cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers played well. According to PFF, Brown was targeted nine times and gave up just five catches for 37 yards. Brown made an exceptional play to diagnose a Devin Hester route and break on the ball for a second-quarter interception. Rogers was targeted twice and did not allow a completion.--Safety Dashon Goldson teamed up for good coverage on Brandon Marshall, who was held to just two catches for 21 yards. Goldson made a nice interception of an overthrown Campbell pass and managed to get both feet inbounds at the sideline.--Marshall made only one play in the game, as he went over Chris Culliver's tight coverage to catch a 13-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.--The Bears' one touchdown came on a series that probably should have come to an end several plays earlier. Brooks broke through to sack Campbell and force a fumble. As Aldon Smith and Carimi were in pursuit of the fumble, Smith shoved Carimi from behind, just as Carimi was batting the ball out of bounds. Referee Tony Corrente ruled that Smith was making no attempt to go after the loose ball and, therefore, his shove in the back was illegal. The 1-yard penalty nullified Brooks' sack and it gave the Bears an automatic first down.--Punter Andy Lee and the coverage units had a strong game against Hester, who managed negative-1 yard on three returns. Lee's net average was a remarkable 47.3, thanks some good coverage by starters Goldson and Bowman, as well as C.J. Spillman, Tramaine Brock and Anthony Dixon.--Kicker David Akers got back in his comfort zone with field goals of 32, 37 and 32 yards.

49ers begin final phase of offseason program

49ers begin final phase of offseason program

The 49ers have graduated back to the phase of the offseason when offense-vs.-defense drills are allowed.

Because of the hiring of Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers were allowed an additional “voluntary” minicamp before the NFL draft. That meant the 49ers were permitted to skip from the two-week conditioning phase of the offseason straight to what is allowed under Phase III.

But after the three-day minicamp in late-April, the 49ers were forced to retreat back to Phase II, when on-field drills but could not include offense vs. defense.

Beginning Monday – and over the next three weeks -- the 49ers can get back to conducting the standard one-on-one, 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 "non-contact" drills. The 49ers have the maximum number of 10 organized team activities scheduled. The official offseason program concludes with a mandatory minicamp scheduled for June 13-15.

The real competition does not begin until the pads go on during training camp. but here’s a look at the team’s most notable offseason competitions (one position you will not find is quarterback, where the depth chart of Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley and C.J. Beathard appears clearly set):

Running back: Carlos Hyde, entering the final year of his original four-year contract, has a lot of competition to hold onto his role as the featured back. He is coming off his most-productive season, finishing just 12 yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark when he sustained a knee injury with one game remaining. Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner lobbied for Utah running back Joe Williams in the draft. They clearly see a fit for him within the system.

Pass-rush end: The 49ers’ pass rush was among the worst in the NFL the past two seasons. Arik Armstead will be given an opportunity to see if he can adapt to the “Leo” position. Aaron Lynch must earn the confidence of the coaching staff and front office. The 49ers added explosive, 243-pound pass Pita Taumoepenu in the sixth round.

Tight end: The 49ers confirmed Vance McDonald was available for a trade during the draft. After finding no takers, the 49ers brought back McDonald and he rejoins the competition among rookies George Kittle and Cole Hikutini, and veterans Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell.

Cornerback: Rashard Robinson is the obvious choice to start on one side. And assuming Jimmie Ward remains at free safety, the 49ers have no other player on the roster who has started a significant number of games at cornerback. Rookie Ahkello Witherspoon, a third-round draft pick, will have a legitimate opportunity to win a starting job, as long as he displays a willingness to stick his nose into the action and play with the requisite level of physicality. Dontae Johnson, Keith Reaser and Will Redmond should also be in the mix to replace Tramaine Brock, who was released shortly after his arrest after an alleged domestic incident last month.

Center: Jeremy Zuttah, a Pro Bowl performer, was added in the offseason via a trade with the Baltimore Ravens. Daniel Kilgore has been the 49ers’ center the past three seasons but injuries have limited him to just 23 starts over that period of time. Zuttah has position flexibility. The 49ers could determine the best thing for the offensive line is to move Zuttah to one of the guard positions – to challenge Zane Beadles or Joshua Garnett -- if he is not clearly better than Kilgore.

Weakside linebacker: The 49ers signed veteran Malcolm Smith on the first day of free agency, providing him with $11.5 million of fully guaranteed money. The 49ers ranked Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster as the No. 3 overall prospect in the draft. They traded up to select him at No. 31 overall. Assuming Foster is ready to compete at the beginning of training camp after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, it appears likely he would line up in that position and compete with Smith. The 49ers’ medical staff does not believe Foster will require any additional surgery, and Foster said he expects to be cleared for the opening of camp.

Barkley continues work with personal coach of Brady, Ryan

Barkley continues work with personal coach of Brady, Ryan

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan spent last offseason working with Tom House and Adam Dedeaux on his throwing mechanics.

Ryan went on to set career-bests in completion percentage (69.9), yards passing (4,944), touchdowns (38), interceptions (7) and passer rating (117.1).

New 49ers quarterback Matt Barkley worked with House and Dedeaux for the fourth offseason in Southern California before reporting to Santa Clara for the team’s offseason program.

“Kyle (Shanhan) is on board with what House and those guys are doing – I think, really, because of the year Matt Ryan had,” Barkley said on “The 49ers Insider Podcast” on NBC Sports Bay Area.

“He’s a believer in that. He saw the benefits of what Matt did with some of his drops and the timing on routes, how he changed his feet on some things. So we’re kind of sticking with that plan. Everyone is a little different, but for the most part we’re all on the same page when it comes to what our drops are looking like, our footwork and how the ball is coming out.”

House is a former major league pitcher and pitching coach who founded the 3DQB training facility in Los Angeles. Dedeaux pitched at USC and is the grandson of USC baseball coaching legend Rod Dedeaux. Former NFL quarterback John Beck is a motion mechanics instructor.

Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Alex Smith and Carson Palmer are among the NFL quarterbacks who have worked with 3DQB.

“I believe in those guys and what they’re doing,” Barkley said. “They’re at the top of their game, working with Brady and a bunch of other guys. They’ve helped me.

“He won’t change your throwing motion or really tweak how the ball comes out, but he’s going to try to maximize velocity and ground force production and torque -- a lot of sports science terms. But, really, just maximizing efficiency with your motion and making sure you’re sequencing is right.”

Barkley had never played for Shanahan before signing a two-year contract with the 49ers on the first day of free agency. But there are two obvious connections. Barkley’s offensive coordinator last season with the Chicago Bears was Dowell Loggains, Shanahan’s quarterbacks coach in 2014 when Shanahan was the Cleveland Browns’ offensive coordinator. The other connection is House.

"It’s kind of funny, he worked with Atlanta’s staff all of last year, helped Matt Ryan, kind of build his base from the ground up and helped him a lot and he had an MVP year," Barkley said of House.

"There may have been talks down the pipeline, who knows. I don’t think that was the deciding factor by any means, but it never hurts.”