Aldon Smith's quick transition to NFL success

Aldon Smith's quick transition to NFL success
November 3, 2011, 2:33 pm
Share This Post

SANTA CLARA -- Aldon Smith was named NFL defensive rookie of the month for his play at defensive end for the 49ers in October.Smith is listed as an outside linebacker, but he's really a defensive end . . . at least for now.Any secrets to Aldon's quick transition to the NFL? Wasn't he supposed to be a project? (@Joshuahss)
The quick transition was not completely unexpected. It has been pointed out here that it's not uncommon for good pass-rushers to show up in the NFL at early stages in their careers.Sure, there is typically some development that takes place. But pass-rush ability is a skill that, history has shown, can transition from college to the pro ranks. Guys whose job it is to hound the quarterback generally either have it or not.RELATED: Aldon Smith named NFL defensive rookie of the month
And Smith showed signs of being outstanding in that area from the first day he put on pads and started practicing with his new teammates."He's really good," 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said the 49ers' No. 7 overall pick on July 31. "He's a really talented player. I can see why they drafted him as high as they did. I'm just so excited he's on our team. Going up against him every day is going to make me better. Because he's one of those dudes that presents a challenge for tackles. . . . It's not every day you see guys with huge long arms but also the size and the strength to go along with it."Staley was talking about Smith's pass-rush skills. That's when he's at defensive end, where he mostly played at Missouri.Where everybody figured his transition would be rough was when it came to standing up and playing outside linebacker.On Aug. 28 after the Houston Texans blew out the 49ers in an exhibition game, coach Jim Harbaugh was asked if Smith were ready to make the transition to being an every-down outside linebacker."I think he's in a process right now," Harbaugh said.Smith has natural pass-rush ability with his large, vise-grip hands, his 35-38-inch-long arms and his unique combination of strength and quickness. But standing up and playing outside linebacker is a completely different skill set.He is not on the Pro Bowl ballot because he is not a starter. Parys Haralson has been the 49ers' right outside linebacker on first and second downs. And Haralson has played very well in that role.Of course, the 49ers envision Smith as a player who'll eventually play every down. Prior to the 49ers' Week 2 game against the Dallas Cowboys, Smith lined up in practice with the scout team as DeMarcus Ware. (Ware already has 12 sacks this season.)
Aldon Smith played the role of Ware in practice against the 49ers' No. 1 offense. Now, with 6.5 sacks in his past four games, Smith's play during games is looking a lot like Ware, as well.