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Aldon Smith to Face Rookie LT

Posted Sep 4, 2013

The 49ers third-year outside linebacker is ready to open the season against Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari.

This isn’t exactly David versus Goliath, but you’d be forgiven for thinking along those lines.

This is David Bakhtiari versus Aldon Smith.

The matchup of the Green Bay Packers rookie left tackle and the 49ers third-year sack-master will be a significant determining factor of Sunday’s season opener for both players’ teams.

Bakhtiari, the Packers’ fourth-round draft pick in April, will be responsible for quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ blind side in the wake of starter Bryan Bulaga’s season-ending knee injury.

Smith represents his first assignment in the NFL. Matching up with a man who recorded 19.5 sacks in 2012 is more of a test.

“He’s an athletic tackle, a guy that trust enough to come in there and protect Aaron Rodgers,” said Smith, who started watching film of Bakhtiari on Wednesday. “(We need) to do the same things we did the last couple of times we played (Rodgers): making his throws hard, getting pressure on him and taking away his options.”

The 49ers defense accomplished just that in the in their regular-season September matchup and during the 2012 NFC Divisional playoffs in January, sacking Rodgers four times and forcing two interceptions.

Bakhtiari is believed to be worthy of playing in front of Rodgers. The Colorado product stands 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds – nearly 40 heavier than Smith – and has been jousting with All-Pro outside linebacker Clay Matthews since training camp.

“They’ve had their battles,” McCarthy said. “It’s been great work for David. David’s had every rep at left tackle since Bryan’s injury.”

Matthews said he has noticed Bakhtiari ability to think big-picture, rare for a rookie. The pair worked out together this offseason.

“His athleticism, arm length and mentality has really helped him out thus far,” Matthews said of his younger teammate. “Now he gets to face an All-Pro pass rusher so he’ll have his hands full. Hopefully he can live up to it.

“He has an exceptionally tough task with Aldon and Justin Smith.”

READ: PROTECTING KAEPERNICK

McCarthy acknowledged that his other starting tackle on Sunday is no steady vet either. Second-year man Don Barclay is being asked to protect the right side of the visiting team’s offensive line.

San Francisco’s six-time Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis, who missed the preseason but is expected to start Sunday with or without a cast on his healing right hand, will have his eyes on the Green Bay’s signal-caller.

“They do have two new tackles, left and right, but Aaron Rodgers always gets the ball out quick,” Willis said. “We know he’s going to be even more at it to get the ball out that much faster.

“Everybody’s got a plan, and sometimes that plan gets deviated. It’s always up to us as a defense to make a team one-dimensional… They have $100-million quarterback, so we know they’re going to want him to throw the ball.”

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