Aldon Smith ready for return to every-down role

Three and Out: Kaepernick's struggles, Aldon Smith more playing time

Aldon Smith ready for return to every-down role
November 25, 2013, 10:15 am
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Aldon Smith has just one quarterback hit and three hurries in his two games back, according to Pro Football Focus. (AP IMAGES)

Aldon Smith had 38 career sacks in his first 35 regular-season games before missing five games to seek treatment. (AP IMAGES)

WASHINGTON – All-Pro outside linebacker Aldon Smith played sparingly in the first game after his return from a voluntary leave of absence on Nov. 10 against Carolina.

He saw considerably more action last week as a nickel pass-rusher against the New Orleans Saints, whose personnel packages dictated the 49ers’ application of defensive alignments to better handle an aerial attack.

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On Monday night against Washington, Smith, the 49ers’ MVP of a year ago, should see his most action on base downs since his release from a treatment facility for substance abuse.

Dan Skuta has started at right outside linebacker for the past seven games, including both games after Smith’s return. But defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said it will be beneficial to get Smith back on the field as an every-down player.

“I think anytime you have a guy like that, the more you can play the better and get a feel for the game,” Fangio said. “You have to be conscious if you’re getting a lot of longer drives and a lot of passes where the fatigue sets in to get him a blow.”

The 49ers planned to play Smith more against the Saints, Fangio said, but Smith had been experiencing cold symptoms. Then, Smith got sick after having an adverse reaction to medication.

Smith has not recorded a sack in the two games since his return. He has just one quarterback hit and three hurries in his two games back, according to Pro Football Focus. Smith had 38 career sacks in his first 35 regular-season games before missing five games to seek treatment.

Here’s how much playing time each of the 49ers outside linebackers has gotten in the past two games with Smith available:

Vs. Carolina (66 snaps)
Ahmad Brooks 63
Dan Skuta 41
Corey Lemonier 15
Aldon Smith 12

At New Orleans (69 snaps)
Brooks 64
Smith 44
Skuta 26
Lemonier 5

With Ray McDonald out with a high-ankle sprain, the 49ers at times featured a four-man line in pass-rush situations against the Saints that consisted of Brooks and Lemonier on the outside with Aldon Smith and Justin Smith inside.

“Aldon’s got the ability to rush from the inside, so it allows us to put him inside as a defensive tackle, which is where he played a lot in college, and put Corey and Ahmad outside and obviously keeping Justin in there,” Fangio said.

“Sometimes it’s a good change-up, particularly when we’re down a D-lineman that we don’t have to wear out (Demarcus) Dobbs, (Tony) Jerod-Eddie and (Glenn) Dorsey. It gives us a chance to utilize the personnel a little bit more to protect where we’re short guys.”

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