Part of Aldon Smith's offseason routine has involved locking himself in a room and going over his rookie game film. He's not searching for the highlights -- the 14 sacks and two forced fumbles he had in the regular season. Instead he's looking for the ones that got away.
"Some games I didn't think I did as well in. There were some games that, in my mind, I could have been more productive in," he said this week. "I'm watching all the times I didn't get there and trying to better myself. I'm watching moves I could have done, things I need to improve on."
Fourteen is an impressive sack total. It's the highest for an NFL rookie since 1999 and the most ever for a 49ers rookie. But it becomes more remarkable when you consider that Smith didn't get a single sack until Week 4 when he had 1 Â½ against perhaps the most slippery quarterback in the league, Philadelphia's Michael Vick.
Smith said he simply became more comfortable with the 49ers defense -- which he only began learning in August - and the coaches, in turn, became more comfortable with him. As a result his playing time increased in Philadelphia.
Smith, of course, also did not start any games. He entered on passing downs and ended up playing 489 snaps, 48 percent of the team's total defensive snaps. Many of those plays came as a defensive end in the 49ers' nickel package.
That will change this year. Smith surely will reprise his role as a third-down defensive lineman, but he'll also start at outside linebacker this season, general manager Trent Baalke said. Standing up and dropping into coverage is something that Smith rarely has done both at Missouri and in San Francisco, and it's been a focus this offseason, he said.
Still, Smith's primary role will be as a pass rusher, and he sees the extra playing time as a way to improve upon his stellar rookie season. "I'm just trying to develop an overall push rush whether it's going through them or inside or outside," he said. "I just want to be the ultimate pass rusher, the ultimate outside linebacker."
-- Matt Barrows