Justin Smith is not a name you would hear from almost any NFL fan of a team other than the 49ers when talking about great defensive lineman around the league. He doesn’t even get that much respect or nearly the attention he deserves as a great defensive lineman, he’s the best player not that many people know about. Smith is a blue collar player who gives 110% on every snap with an unrelenting motor and unmatched desire. Smith doesn’t get the credit he deserves for a few reasons, he’s played on bad teams in Cincinnati and San Francisco and he’s not flashy. Smith does not have signature move, he’s not the fastest guy in the league, but he’s one of if not the best defensive lineman in the entire NFL.
Smith does whatever it takes for his team to win, he lines up primarily at DE but also moves inside to defensive tackle on a lot of 3rd down situations when the team brings in extra pass rushers. Justin is superior at the point of attack and almost always beats his man off the ball, a scrappy player that just keeps coming at you all game long. A lot of offensive lineman are simply too worn out in the 2nd half to contain Smith. While he’s not a dominate sack master he is one of the games great at pressuring the quarterback. Smith leads the entire NFL in sacks, hits, and pressures with 36 that’s flat out dominate. Smith is also a terror in the run game, one of the best at sealing off the edge so the running back can’t get to the corner and turn up field, if it’s not Smith himself making the tackle it’s one of the 49er inside linebackers taking an angle Smith most likely created.
Smith’s stellar overall play in both the run game and the passing game have him ranked by profootballfocus.com as the best defensive player in the NFL. That’s right not just the best defensive lineman but the best defensive player in the entire NFL. While I might not go that far as I think Patrick Willis is the best defensive player in the league you can’t argue with Smith as possibly the best DL in the game. The defensive play of the year so far in my opinion was Smith’s awesome 4th quarter strip of Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin to seal the 49er comeback victory.
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