Aldon Smith is officially the best young sack specialist in NFL history – or will be with at least another sack to his credit between now and the end of the season.
It’s worth noting there are still five games left in the season.
Smith chalked up 1.5 sacks of Drew Brees Sunday in San Francisco’s 31-21 win in New Orleans, giving the second-year player 30.5 sacks so far in his brief NFL career. His effort was part of San Francisco's five-sack pillaging of Brees during the game.
Pro Football Hall of Famer Reggie White holds the record for a player’s first two years, with 31.0 sacks, as we reported last week.
Keep in mind that when it comes to official sack records, “best in history” comes with a bit of a caveat: sacks were not an official NFL record until 1982.
Still, Smith is lighting up quarterbacks at an incredible clip. He generated 14.0 sacks last year as a rookie and has already notched 16.5 here in 2012.
In fact, he might even challenge Michael Strahan's single season record of 22.5 sacks set in 2001. Smith needs six sacks in the final five games to tie the record and 6.5 to break it.
Keep your eyes on Broncos second-year pass-rushing specialist Von Miller, too. He picked up another sack in Denver’s 17-9 win at Kansas City and is the conversation for best young sack-men in history, too.
He now was 25.5 since his rookie season, also with five games to play this year. With a big 5.5-sack outing like Smith had last week against the Bears, he'll race up to the top of the list quickly, too.
At the very least, it gives us an exciting sack-minded tandem to follow this year and beyond.
Here’s the NFL’s Top 10 all-time sack leaders through first two seasons of their respective careers.
Most Sacks, First Two Seasons
1. Reggie White (1985-86) – 31.0
3. Aldon Smith (2011-12) – 30.5
2. Derrick Thomas (1989-90) – 30.0
4. Shawne Merriman (2005-06) – 27.0
5. Jevon Kearse (1999-2000) – 26.0
6. Von Miller (2011-12) – 25.5
7. Dwight Freeney (2002-03) – 24.0
8. Clay Matthews (2009-10) – 23.5
9. Anthony Smith (1991-92) – 23.5
10. Terrell Suggs (2003-04) – 22.5
There are two conflicting factors at work here that you should keep in mind. The NFL has so liberalized the rules to favor offense that it’s easier than ever for quarterbacks to sit back and pass.
But at the other end of the spectrum, teams pass the ball so much more often than they did in the past that pass rushers have more opportunity than ever to get after the quarterback.
How those competing forces impact the relative merits of pass rushers from different errors requires some deeper analysis.