We reported earlier that the NFL suspended Aldon Smith nine games for violating the league substance abuse policy. So how big of a blow is this to the San Francisco 49ers this season? Aldon Smith has amassed 42 sacks in his first three NFL seasons. That is quite impressive for a player’s first three seasons but let’s put it into historical perspective. In the history of the NFL the only players with more sacks in their first three seasons were Reggie White and Derrick Thomas, two Hall of Famers. In further comparison, Aldon Smith took forty-three games to get his 42 sacks. Compared to Derrick Thomas, who had his 43.5 sacks in forty-seven games, Smith did it four games quicker. Reggie White had his 52 sacks in only thirty-one games.
Last season, when Smith voluntarily took a leave from the team to seek treatment for substance-abuse, the San Francisco 49ers went 5-0. Dan Skuta and Corey Lemonier stepped in to replace Smith during those five games. Skuta and Lemonier combined for only one sack and twenty-two tackles in Smiths absence. Even though the 49ers went 5-0 in that stretch it came against teams that finished with a combined record of 30-50. Patrick Willis is confident Skuta and Lemonier can step up, even though he over estimates their effectiveness last season.
“Skuta and Corey, stepped up big time for us. It’s going to have to be like that again if we’ve got a situation.”
-San Francisco 49ers Linebacker Patrick Willis
Losing Aldon Smith is a huge blow to a San Francisco 49ers defense that is already without Linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who will be missing half the season from a knee injury he suffered in last season’s playoffs. Making up the production that Aldon Smith gives that 49ers defense will not be found in one of two guys. Instead they are going to have to take a team approach and hope that when Smith comes back in November, that they are still in good position to make a playoff push. Of course, can the 49ers really rely on Aldon Smith at this point?