Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Updated - Does The 49ers Defense Miss Aldon Smith?

All signs point to Aldon Smith rejoining the 49ers active roster for their game this Sunday against Carolina at Candlestick Park.  During the week leading up to the Houston game I wrote the piece below asking, "Does The 49ers Defense Miss Aldon Smith?"  When comparing the defensive stats from the three games he played to the five games that he missed the answer to that question was not as much as many would think.


During the time that Smith was out the 49ers saw improvement from its defense in both rush yards per attempt and overall pressure on the quarterback.

Let's take a look at the run defense first.  During the first three weeks of the season the 49ers defense was playing at full strength, with Smith at his usual right outside linebacker position.  During those 3 games the defense gave up an average of over four and a half yards per carry on runs in the direction of Smith.  The worst game over that stretch came not against Indianapolis, only 2 days after Smith had been arrested for driving under the influence, but a week earlier in Seattle when the right side of the 49ers defense gave up an average of over 5 yards per carry.

After the Indianapolis game Smith left the team to seek treatment, and the 49ers went with a platoon system to replace him.  Dan Skuta was charged with handling the outside linebacker duties in the base defense while the pass rushing defensive end duties in the nickle and dime packages went to rookie Corey Lemonier.  Over the course of the next five weeks the 49ers would see the average run towards Skuta and Lemonier drop to four yards per carry, over a half yard decrease per attempt.

The pass defense saw a similar improvement.  During the first three weeks of the season the 49ers pass rush affected the opposing quarterback with either a sack, hit, hurry or blocked pass an average of 18.3 times per game.  During the 5 weeks that Smith was out, the 49ers actually saw an increase in pressure, increasing the total to an average of 20 per game.

All of this shows that Jim Harbaugh's mantra of "the team, the team, the team" is right on the mark and that the team as a whole is greater than any of it's individual parts.

Rushing yards against by direction:
First 3 games:
At Smith: 4.56 Away from Smith: 3.58
Last 5 games:
At Skuta/Lemonier: 4.0 Away from Skuta/Lemonier: 3.89

Passing stats including Sacks, Hits, Hurry’s, and Blocked passes:
First 3 weeks:
A Smith averaged 5.66 (Team Averaged 18.3)
GB-8 (19)
Seattle-6 (21)
Indy-3 (15)
Next 5 Weeks:
Lemonier and Skuta averaged 5 (Team averaged 20)
St Louis-6 (30)
Houston-5 (20)
Arizona-5 (20)
Tennessee-7 (19)
Jacksonville-2 (11)


  1. Very Interesting. Of course Seattle and Indy were the toughest teams that the Niners faced so that probably scews the stats a little, but interesting none the less.

    1. From a team standpoint yes, but when you look at how the left tackles that they have faced so far have graded out, the pass blocking grades are actually higher over the last 5 games.