San Francisco 49ers defensive end Justin Smith has been one of the best DE's in the league for quite sometime now, but after his role in the 2011 Niners success, he's starting to really get the accolades and attention his play has deserved.
Over at Pro Football Focus, they recently ran down their top 101 players in the league, and sure enough Mr. Smith found himself in the No. 2 slot, second to another Bay Area product in Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.
PFF broke down Smith's playing style a bit, which they noted is quite diverse:
Possessing a devastating combination of brute force and technique, and enough versatility to be a factor on every down and in multiple spots, Smith challenges an opponent like few others. Over the course of the game he will make himself known to the entire left side of an offensive line as well as any tight ends and running backs expected to help out in pass protection. He has the ability to bull-rush any of these blockers or beat them to the inside or outside with his quickness and technique.
Smith has never won the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award, and that should have changed this season. While he will again have to settle for the recognition of his peers, he can now see his name at No. 2 in the PFF Top 101, as the top defensive player on the list.
They also take a closer look at his best game of the season, his week six performance against the Detroit Lions in which he finished with two sacks, a knockdown, and six pressures on the QB while all but shutting down the Lions run game as well. He played a large role in just about every one of 49ers victories last season.
Smith also had 15 more sacks, hits, and hurries combined than any other 3-4 end in the league, finishing the regular season with 69 total.
If you didn't know it before you certainly do now. There simply isn't a better DE than Justin Smith.
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