This is the second part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Dolphins matchups to watch Sunday, 1 p.m. (CBS), at Candlestick Park.
49ers ROLB Aldon Smith vs. Dolphins LT Jonathan Martin
Tale of the tape
Smith (99): 6-foot-4, 258 pounds, second season, Missouri
Martin (71): 6-foot-5, 312 pounds, rookie, Stanford
Aldon Smith is closing in on Michael Strahan's NFL record of 22.5 sacks in a single season. With a league-leading 17.5 sacks, Smith needs five sacks in the final four games to get there.
Smith figures to be a focus each week. And on Sunday, he appears to have a significant advantage as he goes against Miami Dolphins rookie Jonathan Martin, who makes his first start on the left side after starting at right tackle up to this point.
Martin, whom the Dolphins selected in the second round of the draft, was originally projected as a mid-first-round selection. But his stock took a hit when he hoisted 225 pounds on the bench press just 20 times at the NFL scouting combine.
Martin played for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh during his college career at Stanford.
"He was a good player for us at Stanford," Harbaugh said. "He's been doing a good job his entire rookie year, and to make the switch from right tackle to left tackle, he's adapted and doing a good job. With losing their left tackle, he'll be called on this week."
Martin takes over at left tackle after Dolphins All-Pro Jake Long was placed on injured reserve with a season-ending torn triceps. Defensive tackle Justin Smith described Martin this week as a "serviceable tackle in this league."
Martin will need to muster every bit of strength, as well as quickness, to keep up with Aldon Smith, who has demonstrated a wide array of moves as an every-down outside linebacker in his second NFL season. Smith already has recorded more sacks in his first two seasons than any other pass-rusher since the NFL began tabulating sacks in 1982.
"Some guys can get close but not finish," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "Those guys can get close and finish. It takes a special skill set. You've got to have something special, one way or another, either one thing or two things. In Aldon's case, he's got length. He's got slipperiness. He's got some strength."