The 49ers have been vague about how much Aldon Smith will be utilized in his first game back on Sunday, but the Giants are expecting a healthy dose of the pass-rushing linebacker.
“I'm sure they're not just going to throw him out there in his first game back, but I would imagine that he would have x amount of plays and that he very well may be in there as a part of their third-down package,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said on a conference call.
“We expect him to be out there,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “We don't know how much or if there's a package for him or certain situations, but he's been a tremendous player for the last few years and expect him to get in the game and we'll have to handle him.”
Following a six-week layoff last season, Smith played 12 snaps in a Nov. 10 loss to the Panthers. He was limited to being a pass-rush specialist in the next two games and didn't make his first start until Dec. 1 against the Rams.
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But as Coughlin noted, Smith has been around the 49ers' facility this year as a opposed to last year. He said he expected Smith's conditioning to be good and that he's likely in-tune mentality after attending all of the team meetings through the first nine weeks of the season.
If, as Coughlin suspects, Smith enters the game in nickel situations, he could be paired with rookie Aaron Lynch. Smith theoretically would rush from the right side and Lynch from the left.
Without Smith, the 49ers have just 15 sacks through nine games and are on pace for their most meager total (in a 16-game season) since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. Manning said the Giants' offensive game plan won't change because they are anticipating a lot of snaps from Smith. But he conceded there could be some adjustments in the game.
“If he's in there and he's playing well, then obviously it can change some of your protections to get some help on that side if need be,” Manning said.
The 49ers currently have a roster exemption for Smith. if the Giants are correct and Smith plays on Sunday, however, they will have to release a player to get to the 53-man limit.
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.