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Scout's Notebook: 49ers DRT Justin Smith

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By Nolan Nawrocki

49ers DRT Justin Smith
Height: 6-4, Weight: 284, Speed: 4.86

Notes: Was selected fourth overall out of Missouri by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2001 and set a Bengals rookie record by recording 8½ sacks despite missing all of the preseason and the first game following protracted contract negotiations and not settling into the starting job until Week Five. Started every game the next six seasons mainly at right end, piling up 466 tackles and 43½ sacks during his seven-year stay. After being franchised by the Bengals in '07, signed a six-year, $45 million deal with the Niners in March of 2008. Earned Pro Bowl nods in 2009 and '10, recording 198 tackles and 21½ sacks his first three years in San Francisco under defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. In eight starts at defensive right tackle for new coordinator Vic Fangio, Smith has notched 29 tackles and 4½ sacks.

Positives: Excellent motor, tempo and field presence. Rarely comes off the field and stands out every week for the way he manhandles blockers. Rare competitiveness and playing intensity — knows only one way to play and goes full throttle past the whistle. Very good hand technician — understands leverage and can swat blockers away. Has power in his body and uses it with authority to make plays vs. the run and the pass. Outstanding instincts and feel for blocking pressure to fend off blocks and collapse the pocket. Extremely tough and durable.

Negatives: Lacks the explosion, lateral agility and elite edge burst that he possessed when he entered the league and has lost a step as he has aged and bulked up — is not an elite pass rusher (although he is not asked to fill that role in the Niners' odd front). Is a tad light for a five-technique and lacks ideal bulk. Is a bit tightly wound with average arm length and is not a fluid bender — consequently can get hung up against the double-team. Much of his sack production has come against weak offensive lines. Is 32 years old.

Summary: Despite regularly drawing double-teams, is tied for the league lead in sacks (4½) among 3-4 defensive ends and is a havoc-wreaking defensive force for one of the NFL's most stout run defenses. Has been one of the most consistent, down-to-down players in the NFL the past decade and has a hard-earned a reputation as a commanding war daddy. Consistently energizes and sets the tone for the defense and has served as a stabilizing, locker-room leader.

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