The 49ers play the Green Bay Packers in three days. In the meantime, I’ll break down a few key matchups a day.
ROLB Aldon Smith: 6-4, 258 pounds, 22 years old, 35 3/8-inch arms.
LT Marshall Newhouse: 6-4, 319 pounds, 23 years old, 34-inch arms.
This is the key one-on-one matchup and if Aldon Smith dominates it, the 49ers should win. Marshall Newhouse got manhandled last season by defensive ends Tamba Hali, Cameron Wake and Jason Pierre-Paul. If Aldon Smith is 100 percent healthy, Newhouse will probably need help from a second blocker – a tight end or a running back – just to hold his own. But we don’t know if Aldon Smith is 100 percent healthy. He played in the first preseason game, bruised his hip and hasn’t played in a game since. He did suit up for practice on Wednesady and was a full participant according to the 49ers’ practice report.
LT Joe Staley: 6-5, 315 pounds, 28 years old, 33 ½-arms.
ROLB Clay Matthews: 6-3, 255 pounds, 26 years old, 32 ¼-arms.
Staley did not play well at the beginning of last season, but in the second half he was as good as any left tackle in the NFL, and he earned his first Pro Bowl appearance. A few weeks ago against the Denver Broncos in the third preseason game, he struggled with Elvis Dummervil, who is very good but not as good as Clay Matthews. Packers’ beat writer Bob McGinn ranks Matthews as the second-best player on the team behind Aaron Rodgers. McGinn also writes that Matthews might be able to “take over games by himself” this year. If this is true, Alex Smith and the 49ers offense will have a tougher time than usual of converting any third-and-longs.