49ers Mailbag II: Is Aldon Smith ready to start?

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49ers Mailbag II: Is Aldon Smith ready to start?

Rookie Aldon Smith recorded one tackle and no sacks in his first three games of the season. Last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, he recorded five tackles and 1.5 sacks.This edition of 49ers Mailbag leads off with a question about the No. 7 overall pick . . . Q: When do you see Aldon Smith becoming a starter? I'd like to see him play more. @sf_game
My answer: As long as Ahmad Brooks and Parys Haralson are healthy, I do not envision Aldon Smith moving into the starting lineup this season.The reason is because Haralson is a better outside linebacker, and Smith is a better defensive end. When the 49ers have their base defense on the field, Haralson plays right outside linebacker.And when the 49ers go with their nickel pass defense, featuring a four-man line, Smith takes his position at defensive end.Last week, the Eagles called 60 pass plays. They featured a lot of three-receiver formations. Therefore, the 49ers countered with five and six defensive backs. In those situations, Smith was on the field. So he played the majority of the game over Haralson.
Smith took advantage of his extended playing time to produce his best game of the season. But it was entirely as a defensive endpass rusher.Smith will not play as much Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Why? Because the Bucs do not use many three-receiver personnel packages other than third downs, two-minute drills and catch-up situations.Q: Do you expect Anthony Dixon to really get any more playtime versus the Bucs? @travisbarnette
My answer: No. I think the way the 49ers rotated their backs against the Eagles is pretty much how it's going to be for a while. Dixon is in the coaches' doghouse, as suggested by his comments to CSNBayArea.com on Friday. I expect Gore to start and play about 23 of the game with Kendall Hunter seeing the rest of the action. If Dixon plays on offense, I don't believe it'll be for more than a couple snaps.Q: Will Tampa Bay copy the Eagles and put Aqib Talib on Vernon Davis? If not, can either of Tampa's safeties keep up? @Msclemons67
My answer: It's an option, but I would not think it'll be a play-in, play-out strategy. Nnamdi Asomugha (6-foot-2) might be the biggest cornerback in the league. That's why the Eagles matched him up against Davis. Talib is 6-1, so it's possible he could be assigned to Davis on some calls. But I don't believe the Bucs will put one defender on Davis. More than likely, they'll continue to play their Tampa-2 defense, drop the middle linebacker deep and have their safeties attempt to pinch off that deep seam route to Davis.
Q: How much of an impact do you think we could see in the run game with RJF over Ice? @edbuto
My answer: Isaac Sopoaga had an outstanding year last season at left defensive end. And he has proven to be an upgrade over Aubrayo Franklin through four games at nose tackle. Sopoaga has been stout in the run game. Ricky Jean Francois is 35 pounds lighter. His job will be to keep the Bucs' guards and center from getting out to the linebackers and blocking Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. I believe there will be an impact. The Bucs will go after Jean Francois. And if they see a weakness there, they'll exploit it throughout the game.Q: What is the team doing to battle staph infections, and prevent other players from getting it? Serious issue! @Ali_Q8T
My answer: Yes, it is a serious issue. When 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was asked Friday what precautions the team has taken, he declined to answer. Seems to me that the club would want to talk about what it has done, rather than let there be any doubt. I do know that Sopoaga was kept away from the 49ers' practice facility during the week. The 49ers were on their way back from Philadelphia after 10 days away from Santa Clara when Sopoaga first began feeling ill. He was diagnosed with a staph infection -- the fourth time in four years a 49ers player has been affected.

Cam Newton benched to start game vs Seahawks for breaking dress code

Cam Newton benched to start game vs Seahawks for breaking dress code

SEATTLE — A missing necktie led to Carolina quarterback Cam Newton getting benched for one series on Sunday night.

Ron Rivera didn't expect it to last just one play.

Carolina's miserable night was capped by a 40-7 loss to Seattle following the most awkward of starts. With Newton being punished for not having a necktie for the team flight to Seattle, the Panthers' starting QB watched backup Derek Anderson throw an interception on the first play of the game.

The turnover only led to a field goal for Seattle, but it was the start of an otherwise forgettable performance by the Panthers that provided another blow to the dwindling playoff hopes of the reigning NFC champions.

Newton missed just one play, but was also just 14-of-32 passing for 182 yards and one touchdown. After pulling within 10-7 in the second quarter, Carolina let Seattle score the final 30 points.

Seahawks lose Thomas, but run all over Panthers in Seattle

Seahawks lose Thomas, but run all over Panthers in Seattle

BOX SCORE

SEATTLE -- Thomas Rawls ran for 103 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, Tyler Lockett took a reverse 75 yards for a score to open the second half and the Seattle Seahawks routed the Carolina Panthers 40-7 on Sunday night.

Another prime-time game in Seattle was clouded with odd story lines right from the outset when Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was benched for the first play, only to watch backup Derek Anderson throw an interception . It was the start of miserable night for Carolina (4-8) and a laugher that moved Seattle (8-3-1) one step closer to the NFC West title.

Rawls and the run game set the tone for Seattle, gashing the second-best run defense in the NFL for 240 yards. Carolina entered the week giving up less than 80 yards per game on the ground.

Rawls finished with 106 yards on 15 carries, quiet in the second half after briefly being checked for a concussion. He was just the second 100-yard rusher for a run game that has lagged most of the season. Rawls' 8-yard run gave Seattle an early 10-0 lead and his 45-yard sprint early in the second quarter pushed it to 17-7.

Russell Wilson was 26 of 36 for 277 yards and a 1-yard scoring pass to Jimmy Graham in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks rolled up a season-high 534 yards and kept a three-game lead over Arizona in the division with four remaining.

Seattle safety Earl Thomas broke a bone in his lower left leg during a first-half collision with teammate Kam Chancellor while trying to intercept Newton's pass. Thomas hobbled off the field putting no weight on the leg and X-rays revealed a "cracked tibia," coach Pete Carroll told Seattle's radio broadcast.

On the play after Thomas' injury, Newton hit Ted Ginn Jr. on a 55-yard touchdown pass to pull the Panthers to 10-7. It would be the only highlight for Carolina.

Rawls immediately answered, darting through the Carolina defense for the 45-yard touchdown run and a 17-7 lead. Steven Hauschka added two more field goals before halftime and Lockett raced 75 yards on a reverse on the first play of the second half. In less than 10 minutes of game time, Seattle extended the lead to 30-7.

Newton's benching was for a dress code violation, according to the NBC broadcast and the single play he missed could not have gone worse. Anderson rolled out to throw a pass to Mike Tolbert. It bounced off Tolbert's hands and into the arms of Mike Morgan, a disastrous result for that only added to questions about coach Ron Rivera's intention with the punishment.

Newton finished 14 of 32 for 182 yards.

LOPSIDED RESULT

It was seventh meeting in the past five years between the Seahawks and Panthers, playoffs included. It was the first time of the seven the game was decided by more than 14 points. Five of the previous six were decided by seven points or less. The biggest win during the stretch was Seattle's 31-17 win in the 2014 playoffs.

BATTERED PANTHERS

Carolina's injury list grew again.

The Panthers were already without starters Kurt Coleman and Luke Kuechly (concussions), and defensive end Mario Addison (foot) on defense, and right tackle Daryl Williams (ankle) on offense. Carolina then lost cornerback Daryl Worley and linebacker David Mayo to concussions against the Seahawks.

THOMAS TWEETS

One of the most emotional players on Seattle's roster, Thomas hinted at retirement in a tweet sent just before halftime.

"This game has been so good to me no regrets. A lot is running through my mind including retirement thanks for all the prayers," Thomas tweeted from the Seattle locker room.

Thomas missed the first game of his career last week at Tampa Bay due to a hamstring injury.

UP NEXT

Panthers: Carolina returns home and hosts San Diego.

Seahawks: Seattle travels to Green Bay.