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San Francisco 49ers: Aldon Smith's Release Defines Next-Man-Up Defense

Published by Bleacher Report on Sun, 09 Aug 2015

Defensive ends Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. Inside linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland. Cornerbacks Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox.Outside linebacker Aldon Smith.Those are some pretty noteworthy names who have departed the San Francisco 49ers prior to the start of this season. Smith's release from the team following his arrest on charges of a hit and run, DUI and vandalism late last week marks the latest blow San Francisco has to bear in this whirlwind of an offseason.And, in a way, it is the most difficult to deal with.Smith's arrest and release may have been a shock to some while not surprising to others. The 49ers have been down this road before with the talented yet troubled linebacker.It was only a season ago when Smith was suspended nine games. The 49ers were forced to find answers then. They'll have to do so once more.Smith's 2014 suspension had one promising revelation: Then-rookie linebacker Aaron Lynch could play.Lynch and fellow veteran linebacker Ahmad Brooks should have little doubt regarding their respective roles with Smith gone. The returning tandem combined for 12 sacks last season.This is the thought also suggested by Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News.Linebackers Eli Harold and Corey Lemonier should be expected to supply backup. Lemonier could have been considered on the bubble for making the 53-man roster in 2015 given his struggles over his first two pro seasons.The third-sound selection of the 49ers in the 2013 has just one sack and 19 tackles over his career.But the 49ers feel as if they have identified the problem.Linebackers coach Jason Tarver pointed out that Lemonier's footwork was off per Taylor Price of 49ers.com.J.T. pointed out that I would take false steps so many times, Lemonier said, via Price. It led to a lot of bad plays.Whether or not this correction works remains to be seen. But the 49ers can also look to Harold to supplement the pass rush.The rookie outside linebacker is worth keeping an eye on during training camp and into the preseason. And Harold once wanted to emulate the on-the-field efforts of Smith.Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle describes further:Three years ago, then-Virginia freshman Eli Harold saw a picture of an NFL player he was eager to emulate each time he powered on his iPad.An image of Aldon Smith served as the background on Harolds device, but his desire to mirror the pass-rushing skills of the 49ers All-Pro outside linebacker was at the forefront of his thoughts.San Francisco grabbed Harold in Round 3 of the 2015 draft. And it's a good thing the team did given what has happened with Smith.Brooks, Lynch, Harold and Lemonier will have more asked of them this season. In a way, this set of circumstances epitomizes what has taken place with the 49ers this offseason.From the outside linebacker position, the inside linebacker position, cornerback and defensive end, the 49ers will need the next men to step up.And they'll need it in a big way.All statistics, records and accolades courtesy ofPro-Football-Reference.comandSports-Reference.comunless otherwise indicated.PeterPanacyis a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, covering theSan Francisco 49ers.Follow him@PeterPanacyon Twitter.
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