Aldon Smith should see more snaps Sunday against Baltimore than the 29 he took against the Cincinnati Bengals.
That effort came just two days after the former 49ers edge rusher signed with the Raiders.
He’s had a week to learn the defensive scheme and how the Raiders prefer to practice and play. Smith played most every snap as part of the Raiders’ passing-down sub package. A real increase will come when he gets involved in the base defense.
While Smith was a 3-4 outside linebacker in Santa Clara, he played 4-3 defensive end in college and is certainly capable of doing so in the Raiders scheme. While most focus on gaudy sack numbers, Smith is a decent run defender as well and can be an asset in that area.
How fast he gets involved depends upon his learning curve.
“It kind of depends on how the development goes,” Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. “How his retaining of the language, but at the same time, he’s a really good pass rusher. That’s where he’s really good at. So we’re going to make sure we keep it as simple as possible and tell him, ‘Go get the quarterback.’”
Smith was primarily a nickel pass rusher as a 49ers rookie in 2011, and still managed 17 sacks and 60 other quarterback pressures.
Smith looked a little rusty in his first game as a Raider, which was understandable considering he signed just two days before and was away from football after the 49ers released him following yet another run-in with the law.
Smith and second-year star Khalil Mack lined up at the end spots, with Justin Tuck working as an interior pass rusher. That personnel package led Ravens coach John Harbaugh to call the Raiders pass rush one of the best in the league. That’s based on potential. This group hasn’t done anything yet.
Mack was still a focal point of the opposing offense, and frequently saw double teams while trying to get after the passer. Smith was often controlled by Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth but, if he picks things up, he could take some focus off of Mack.
Smith is more than capable, with 44 sacks in 51 games. The Raiders would prefer to create a pass rush with four men. Pro Football Focus says they blitzed three times. STATS, Inc. reports that the Raiders didn’t blitz at all. The Seattle defense, which has influenced Norton’s scheme, doesn’t blitz much. Neither has Del Rio in his history. The option is on the table, though the Raiders need help in pass coverage as well.
Having Smith around should definitely help create pressure without bringing extra men.
“He’s a really good football player,” Norton said. “Playing against him in the [NFC] West (when Smith was a 49er and Norton was a Seattle assistant coach) like I have, very impressed with him. To get to know him and see him and talk to him and just talk ball with him, it’s clear he has a very high football IQ. Very passionate. He’s certainly in a position to help us win.”