The last time the Bears saw linebacker Aldon Smith he was abusing tackles Gabe Carimi and J’Marcus Webb on the way to sacking former Bears quarterback Jason Campbell 5.5 times in a 2012 blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Smith added seven quarterback hits and four tackles for a loss, plus two forced fumbles. One game later Carimi was out of the lineup and two games later he was a guard.
That was the last time the Bears saw Smith — until Sunday.
The No. 7 pick of the 2011 draft — which put him under the direction of then 49ers coordinator Vic Fangio — signed with the Oakland Raiders this offseason after serving a nine-game suspension last season, and being released in August by the 49ers following a DUI arrest.
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The problem for the Bears is that the problem is not just Smith. The Raiders used the No. 5 pick of the 2014 draft for rush linebacker Khalil Mack, creating the same kind of pass-rush peril that Smith and Justin Smith brought to bear in the 2012 humiliation of the Bears.
John Fox saw Mack up close twice last season as coach of the Denver Broncos.
“I saw him last year as a rookie,” Fox said. “He’s a tremendous young player. That’s why he was such a high selection. He’s got great speed off the edge. He converts speed to power as well as anybody. He’s an outstanding player.”
The 49ers put Carimi, Webb and the protection schemes in distress by flipping Smith back and forth, changing sides, and the Raiders are doing the same with Mack and Smith. Depending upon who lines up where, Mack or Smith will be the problem right in front of novice tackle Kyle Long.
“They do a good job of rotating those guys,” Long said. “If Aldon Smith’s off the field, then Khalil’s on the other side and they bring somebody else in. They have a lot of options and when you have good edge rushers it gives you a lot of options.”
The Bears’ situation may move from difficult to dire if left tackle Jermon Bushrod is unable to play or even hampered. Bushrod, bothered by back issues, could not finish the Seattle game and has not practiced this week because of what are now listed as concussion and shoulder injuries.
Without Bushrod the left side of the protection against Mack, Smtih and whatever else coach Jack Del Rio and the Raiders devise will fall to Charles Leno, Jr., who was unable to hold down the right tackle spot to coaches’ satisfaction this preseason.
“All these guys know they are one play away from being the starter,” Fox said. “It doesn’t matter which position you are talking about. That’s why you keep 53 men. You have 46 in uniform on Sundays. We’ll address that as the week wears on.”