49ers key matchup No. 3: Aldon Smith vs. Jermon Bushrod


49ers key matchup No. 3: Aldon Smith vs. Jermon Bushrod

This is the first part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Saints matchups to watch Sunday, 1:25 p.m. (FOX), at the Superdome.49ers OLB Aldon Smith vs. Saints LT Jermon BushrodTale of the tape
Smith (99): 6-foot-4, 258 pounds, second season, Missouri
Bushrod (74): 6-foot-5, 315 pounds, sixth season, TowsonAldon Smith did not play favorites Monday night. He saw most of his action in pass-rush situations coming off the left edge, but he also achieved a couple of sacks working from the other side.Smith has been outstanding in his first season as an every-down player with a smooth transition to setting the edge in the run game. And, in his first two seasons, he's had few peers when he comes to going after the quarterback.With 29 sacks since breaking into the NFL, Smith has the third-highest total in NFL history for a player in his first two seasons since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. Reggie White had 31 sacks in two seasons and Derrick Thomas recorded 30. Smith still has six games, including Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, to add or surpass those marks."He reminds me of Derrick Thomas, watching him with his arm length and the way he can slither, his great get-off," Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt said this week in a conference call with Bay Area reporters. "I think that's one of the best compliments I can givehim."Vic Fangio, the 49ers' defensive coordinator, said he believes Smith has an even greater variety of options than Thomas, the late Kansas City Chiefs' Hall of Famer."Aldon's more of a combination of strength, size, speed, slither, long arms," Fangio said. "I think Aldon's more of a variety-type pass rusher. Where Thomas, Hall of Famer in his own right, was a speed-rusher."Smith figures to be matched up plenty against left tackle Jermon Bushrod. He'll also take a few swings at right Zach Strief, if he plays after being limited this week with a groin injury. Bushrod has started at left tackle for the Saints the past four seasons. He was named to the NFC Pro Bowl team last season.It won't be easy to get to Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who gets rid of the ball quickly to a variety of threats in the passing game. Brees is averaging 306.6 yards passing per game and he's been sacked only 16 times in 10 games.
Smith recorded 5.5 sacks against the Chicago Bears on Monday night, as he destroyed left tackle J'Marcus Webb and right tackle Gabe Carimi. Carimi was benched this week after his struggles against Smith, who leads the NFL with 15 sacks.
Smith entered the league known for his speed-rushes, but he demonstrated overwhelming strength against the Bears with his bull-rushes."I think he's always had really good strength," Fangio said. "He has gotten stronger from Year 1 to Year 2 with an offseason in here working out with our strength staff. But he's always had good, strong, natural, brute strength and he's got strong hands, too. And the combination of that, his length, and his slither ability, he's a tough guy to block."Smith said he has always had a variety of pass-rush moves, but he has a better opportunity to show them this season with his every-down role."I'm just in a lot more, so you see it a lot more," Smith said. "It's there. It's been there. I'm playing more."As a rookie, Smith entered the game at defensive end only when the 49ers were in their nickel defense. He played 48.2 percent of the 49ers' defensive snaps.Smith was slated to be the 49ers' every-down outside linebacker, replacing Parys Haralson even before Haralson sustained a season-ending torn triceps during the exhibition season.

Shanahan: Beathard's play will have 'a ton' of influence on future decisions


Shanahan: Beathard's play will have 'a ton' of influence on future decisions

SANTA CLARA – While rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard is taking a micro view of his promotion, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is not shy about admitting he is looking at the big picture.

Shanahan said how Beathard performs after replacing Brian Hoyer as starting quarterback will have “a ton” of influence on how the 49ers proceed during the offseason.

After all, the 49ers know every position will come under tremendous scrutiny as the organization looks to add the pieces that will make the club competitive.

“That’s for every position. That’s for every player on our team. That’s for every coach on our team,” Shanahan said. “We’re 0-6, and that’s extremely tough. But I’m extremely excited about this place and excited about where we’re at and where we’re going. There’s not a moment that I don’t waste thinking about that stuff.”

Beathard will make his first NFL start on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium.

Hoyer failed in his bid to earn consideration as the 49ers’ quarterback for the remainder of this season and beyond during his six starts. Hoyer completed just 58 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and four interceptions. His passer rating was 74.1.

Now, Beathard gets his chance. But he said he is not thinking about the big picture and what it might mean for the future.

“I’m really just trying to take it one day, one week at a time,” Beathard said. “I’m not looking that far ahead. Right now, my focus is on today’s practice and geared towards beating the Cowboys and doing the best we can to get better and improve.”

Beathard was pressed into action last week when Hoyer’s struggles continued at Washngton. Beathard stepped in and completed 19 of 36 passes for 245 yards with a touchdown and an interception. For the first time, Beathard is getting the first-team practice snaps with a game plan that is designed specifically for him.

Said Beathard, “Getting those extra reps, reps with guys that you don’t usually throw to, in the huddle with the guys that are out there, I think it’ll help a lot.”

Joe Montana: Dwight Clark appreciates all the support from former teammates


Joe Montana: Dwight Clark appreciates all the support from former teammates

More than 35 players from the 49ers’ first Super Bowl champion will be in attendance on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium to show support for Dwight Clark, who revealed in March he was diagnosed with ALS.

Clark, 60, will have ample opportunity to reconnect with some of his old friends on Saturday evening and again on Sunday. At halftime, Joe Montana, surrounded by most of the 49ers' 1981 team, will introduce Clark before a video tribute.

Clark is also expected to make some remarks while situated in a suite for the 49ers’ game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Montana and his wife, Jennifer, have remained in close contact with Clark and his wife, Kelly. The Clarks recently watched the Blue Angels in San Francisco with the Montanas during Fleet Week.

“He’s getting pretty inundated with everyone staying in touch with him at this point,” Montana said on The 49ers Insider Podcast.

“It’s fun for him. At one point, he was telling his wife, Kelly, ‘This is what it’s all about. This is what I want and what I miss, seeing the guys.’ So any of the guys reaching out to him, he surely appreciates it.”

Montana said Clark has not lost his positive outlook or his sense of humor, as evidenced by some not-fit-for-print words he recently had about his wheelchair. Montana said there are always some good laughs and stories any time Clark gets together with his friends.

“That’s the fun part," Montana said. “You just try to get him to forget what’s there, and that you’re there for him whenever. I think the support is the biggest thing right now. In that stage of ALS, it's got to be getting tough, where all of a sudden, things are becoming more and more difficult.”