The 49ers play the Packers Saturday at the Stick. In the meantime, I’ll break down the key matchups.
LT Marshall Newhouse vs. ROLB Aldon Smith
To beat the Packers, you must pressure Aaron Rodgers. Aldon Smith, as you know, is the 49ers best pass rusher. He’ll be facing Marshall Newhouse, a mediocre left tackle who has given up eight sacks this season.
Aldon Smith finished the Week 1 game against the Packers with one sack and two QB hits, but he did not beat Newhouse on those plays. He swung around the inside on a stunt and beat Jeff Saturday, the center.
Aldon Smith was able to get pressure because he was playing next to Justin Smith, the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL when it comes to the “stunt” games. Playing next to Justin for the first 14 games of the season, Aldon averaged 4.6 QB pressures per game. In the two full games Justin has missed with a partially torn triceps tendon, Aldon Smith has averaged 2.5 QB pressures per game.
Week 17 against the Cardinals, Aldon faced the worst left tackle in the NFL this year, D’Anthony Batiste, and Aldon played terribly. Justin was still out, so the stunt game was not an option. Aldon had to rush around the edge, which is not his specialty. He finished with zero sacks and one QB hit. He has not recorded a sack since Justin Smith got injured.
Everyone’s expecting Justin Smith to play on Saturday. If he does and he can grab the left guard on stunts, Aldon Smith will be a factor. But if Justin Smith is not effective and gets replaced by Ricky Jean Francois, Aldon Smith will have another quiet game.