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ATL Film Room: Aldon Smith, QB nightmare


In this week's edition of ATL Film Room, we took a closer look at San Francisco 49ers pass rusher Aldon Smith, a genuine menace to all men holding the job title of "NFL quarterback."

Smith leads the league with 16.5 sacks. His 1.5 against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday gave Smith 30.5 career takedowns in just 27 games, eclipsing Reggie White as the faster player to 30 in NFL history. Starting to get the picture?

People call him the next Derrick Thomas. Maybe so, but Smith's 6-foot-4, 258-pound frame gives him a lean look that recalls, for me, a young Charles Haley. Smith's bound to fill out, but his long arms and speed mean danger for offenses off the edge.

Let's take a look at three examples of how Smith finds his way to the quarterback:

Man of chaos

Say a prayer for J'Marcus Webb. The Chicago Bears left tackle still isn't sure what hit him in the mouth during the Monday night massacre back in Week 11. Smith's 5.5-sack reign of terror left Webb a shattered soul.

Webb's job on this pass play is to maintain the integrity of the pocket around quarterback Jason Campbell, but Smith is too fast and too furious. Watch the confrontation as Webb rises from his stance into pass protection. Smith -- after pivoting almost 90 degrees into attack mode -- is the aggressor from the start. He uses his long reach to roll Webb backward into Campbell before releasing off for a 10-yard, drive-killing sack.

This play also shows why 49ers defensive end Justin Smith is so effective paired alongside Aldon. The duo put Chicago's big uglies in panic mode from the first snap.

Safety valve

Let's move from the opening quarter to the final minutes. Trailing 30-7, Campbell is backed up in a third-and-28 situation from the Chicago 8. The Bears send the entire offense downfield against eight defenders in coverage. This leaves five offensive linemen vs. three 49ers pass rushers. Lined up on the left edge, Aldon swats away tackle Gabe Carimi and surges past guard Lance Louis. Totally unchallenged. The upshot: Smith and a mass of 49ers swarm Campbell for the safety.

Talk all you want about Colin Kaepernick's handiwork. This constant pressure doomed the Bears in Week 11. There's little reason to believe the result would be different if these teams meet again the playoffs.

Many gifts

Watching Smith in a string of recent games, four items stand out about his play:

1. He's even stronger than he looks. Entire halves pass without Smith being thrown to the ground.

2. Smith exhibits great balance. Against Chicago, he consistently bounced off chip blocks. When Chicago failed to toss him off his course -- and this happened often -- Smith was unstoppable. You can't put a player like Webb alone on this guy and expect to move the ball. Why did Chicago think it would work?

3. One area of improvement: Smith, on some plays, could pursue the runner more aggressively. He occasionally falls into the trap of dancing around against the ground game. This wasn't chronic and he's a solid player against the run overall.

4. Great creativity. Smith shows opponents something new every time, attacking oncoming blockers with an array of moves. Check out the play above. Smith freezes Carimi in his tracks -- like a wideout juking a defensive back out of his cleats. The result for Jason Campbell is darkness and disaster.

These are the heroics the fine people of San Francisco have come to expect from Aldon Smith. Quarterbacks everywhere have been warned.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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