He stands at a towering 6’4″ and a heavy 260 pounds, but he moves lightly like a tight end. He has endless length, with his thick boa constrictor-like arms checking in at nearly 36 inches, and an impressive get-up off the line of scrimmage regardless of his stance; a tilted two-point stance or a coiled three-point stance — it simply doesn’t matter. He’s a very fluid athlete, moving through interior gaps on the famous T-E (tackle-end) stunt that he and the other San Francisco Smith — Justin — have popularized. All these traits are exactly what you look for in a pass rusher, especially an outside linebacker in the multiple 3-4 defense, but they’re not even the best in Aldon Smith’s arsenal.
His best traits are those that aren’t always noticeable because they’re diminished by the rest of his impressive physical abilities. They are the ones that permit him to bend and dip underneath and around the narrowest of edges and jolt the mightiest of blockers; they are his rubber band-like flexibility and overpowering hands.
A pass rusher must have both of those traits because at the end of the day, there are only two directions that a pass rusher can take to get to his prey: through the blocker, or around him. Smith has taken both paths while utilizing both traits, administering a record total of 29 sacks in his first 26 career games.
And the best has yet to come.
Aldon Smith is only 23 years old and roughly six months the elder of Von Miller of the Denver Broncos, who’s another star pass rusher and is currently second in sacks. Smith is coming off the best game of his young career, registering an absurd 5.5 sacks against the Chicago Bears’ porous offensive line, which essentially allowed (or so it seemed) him to overtake the lead league in sacks and bring his total to 15 through 11 weeks. On Monday Night Football Smith’s flexibility and hulk-like hands were on their finest display.
On his first sack that came early in the first quarter, Smith exploded off the line from a wide, two-point stance and viciously attacked left tackle J’Marcus Webb, quickly closing the cushion and laying his hands on him. When he did, he immediately sunk his hips, elegantly bending at his knees and forming a 90-degree angle with his right leg while transferring his weight to his inside (left) foot, where his inside shoulder made contact with Webb. The flexibility was simply otherworldly for his monstrous size, and it proved to be a serious problem for the left tackle because what resulted was a flat back formed from low pad level from a 6’5″ athlete.
The low pad level was a link to another web of problems for Webb. How in the world was he going to stop Smith from planting him into the ground like a seed? He wasn’t. He was going to be pinned back on his heels, walked back into the crumbling pocket where his quarterback stood with a cringe, and Smith was going to make sure that Webb was going to feel the power of his hands.
Smith’s flexibility and initial explosion startled Webb, who dropped his hands to his hips while the 49ers’ rusher grabbed the top of Webb’s numbers, extending his arms as he smartly continued to bend his knees to generate power from his lower body up and into his hands. Along with chopping steps, the powerful hands of Smith drove Webb further back into the pocket, concluding in a third-down sack on quarterback Jason Campbell, who spun and hit the ground with a thud.
After the game, NFL.com ran a highlight reel of each of Smith’s 5.5 sacks with the headline, “All Hail Aldon.” It was apt as he became, temporarily, the NFL’s sack king and took the Bears down one extending and powerful punch at a time.