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Aldon Smith role, impact on Raiders defense

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What can the Raiders expect from their new pass rusher?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Raiders shocked the NFL Friday morning when they signed troubled former 49ers defensive end Aldon Smith to a one-year contract worth up to $8 million after roster incentives with a base salary plus signing bonus of $1.5 million. So, what can we expect from Smith with the Raiders?

The 49ers released the former first round pick on August 7th after he was arrested on charges of a hit and run, driving under the influence, and vandalism. The arrest was Smith's fifth in his four-year NFL career.

Within minutes of the Raiders announcing the signing, the Santa Clara DA officially filed all three misdemeanor charges against Smith for his most recent arrest. The NFL is still reviewing the case, but as of now, Aldon Smith is "free to play at this time." And according to ESPN's Ed Werder, the Raiders plan on using him Sunday in their season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals unless the NFL prevents it.

Two days before the season opener, doesn't give Smith much time to learn the playbook. But being that his duties are relatively simple, he could see playing time immediately.

"I think you can bring certain positions up to speed a little quicker than others, and we'll see where it is and make that determination as we approach Sunday." Jack Del Rio said of Smith.

Early on, expect the Raiders to use him primarily as a nickel pass rusher like his rookie season when he notched 14.0 sacks. Until the Raiders are confident he has mastered the playbook, this will likely be Aldon Smith's role in the Raider defense.

Even if Smith is only playing in passing situations, his impact could be tremendous. He has been a sack machine in his career and has recorded 44 of them in just 50 games.

His mere presence on the field will immediately take pressure off the rest of Oakland's defense as opposing offensive coordinators will have to worry and game plan for Smith's pass rushing ability. When he is in the game, teams will not be able to focus on just one pass rusher, which was part of the reason Khalil Mack's sack numbers weren't great (4.0) last season

Even if Aldon Smith is limited to nickel packages the first couple weeks of the 2015 NFL Season, his 14.0 sacks from that same role as a rookie show that even in a limited role, he can be a major factor. Not just in what he brings, but what it opens up for others, as well as helping to take some pressure off the young secondary to maintain coverage.

Best case scenario Smith escapes any kind of suspension and stays out of trouble. In that case his role could increase as the season goes along, making for a significant impact on the overall play of the Raiders defense. Worst case scenario, he is suspended for all or most of the season, the Raiders are out $1.5 million, and this is all for naught. But let's take it game by game