49ers-Cardinals matchup No. 2: Ahmad Brooks vs. Eric Winston
Ahmad Brooks' 2.5 sacks rank second on the team behind Aldon Smith's 4.5. (AP)
Aldon Smith could be available as early as Nov. 10, but only if he shows "signifcant progress." (USATSI)
Editor's note: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Cardinals matchups to watch Sunday, 1:25 p.m., at Candlestick Park
[MATCHUP NO. 1: Mike Iupati vs. Calais Campbell]
49ers OLB Ahmad Brooks vs. Cardinals RT Eric Winston
Tale of the tape
Brooks (55): 6 foot 3, 259 pounds, eighth season, Virginia
Winston (73): 6 foot 7, 302 pounds, eighth season, Miami (Fla.)
The 49ers’ best pass-rusher –- and one of the best in the entire NFL -– has already missed two games. And there’s no certainty when Aldon Smith will return to the lineup.
Without Smith, the 49ers have turned to Ahmad Brooks and a few more blitzes to get pressure on the quarterback.
“It’s still based upon the situation and what I feel we need at the appropriate time,” 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said about dialing up more pressures while Smith remains unavailable. “But, occasionally, you might need to do one or two more without him out there. But, we haven’t done a whole lot more.”
Smith checked into an in-patient facility to receive treatment for substance abuse. He could be available for the 49ers as early as Nov. 10, when the team returns after the bye week. But Smith will only return to action if he’s shown “significant progress.”
In the meantime, the 49ers have turned to Dan Skuta and Corey Lemonier to share the responsibilities on the right side of the defense. But the 49ers rely heavily on Brooks, who primarily lines up on the left side, to pick up the slack as the team’s top outside pass-rusher.
Brooks has been a man for all downs. It is not uncommon for Brooks to play every defensive snap through the course of a game. Coach Jim Harbaugh said he marvels at how Brooks has done just about everything for the 49ers’ defense.
“There's a guy that he does so many things for our defense: Pressure, run game, knocking it down, knocking down the edges, which is so important in today's scheme, going against a zone running game,” Harbaugh said.
“And he does it with very low fanfare. There’s no sack dance. He just doesn't call a lot of attention to himself. He plays every game -- game-in, game-out -- tough. A lot of energy.”
Brooks will match up mostly against Arizona Cardinals right tackle Eric Winston, who has surrendered five sacks and 11 quarterback hurries in his first five games, according to Pro Football Focus. He ranks as PFF’s 54th-best offensive tackle in the NFL.
Winston played six seasons with the Houston Texans to open his career. He was released after one season with the Kansas City Chiefs before signing with the Cardinals in the offseason. Winston has started all 16 games in every season since 2007 season, his second year in the league.
Brooks’ 2.5 sacks is No. 2 on the 49ers behind Aldon Smith, who picked up 4.5 sacks in the first three games of the season.