49ers' depth at outside linebacker tested

Three and Out: OLB depth to be tested in Aldon's absence

49ers' depth at outside linebacker tested
September 24, 2013, 6:30 am
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Corey Lemonier played seven defensive snaps at the end of the 49ers’ blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sept. 15. (AP)


Dan Skuta played mostly inside linebacker during his previous seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Programming note: Watch today's 49ers press conference streaming live from Santa Clara with Vic Fangio and Greg Roman at 1:15 p.m.

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers had so much depth at outside linebacker a month ago that they began trading it away for seventh-round draft picks.

Now, the 49ers will rely on their remaining backups with Aldon Smith being placed Monday on the reserve/non-football illness list. Smith is expected to be out of action for at least a month as he seeks treatment for substance abuse.

[RELATED: 49ers place Smith on non-football illness list]

So the 49ers will turn to rookie Corey Lemonier, a third-round draft pick from Auburn, and fifth-year veteran Dan Skuta, who played mostly inside linebacker during his previous seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals.

“I have confidence in those guys and know they’ll do a good job,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said.

The 49ers list Skuta as the starter on their depth chart, but it was Lemonier who entered the field on Sunday when it looked as if Aldon Smith would need a breather. Instead, there was a timeout, and Smith returned to the action and played all 72 defensive snaps in the 49ers’ 27-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

Lemonier played seven defensive snaps at the end of the 49ers’ blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sept. 15, while Skuta was on the field for six plays. Neither Lemonier or Skuta played defense in the 49ers’ other two games. When the 49ers go with a four-man line in passing situations, reserve Demarcus Dobbs could also see action as an outside pass-rusher.

Veteran Parys Haralson would have taken over as the starter with Smith out of action, but he was traded to the New Orleans Saints on Aug. 26.

Haralson was a primary 49ers’ starter for five seasons before missing all of 2012 with a torn triceps. The trade was made, in part, because the 49ers were tight against the salary cap and wanted to dump his $1.3 million salary for the season.

The 49ers are currently only $1.5 million under the salary cap. Only two NFL teams – the New York Giants and St. Louis Rams – have used more of their allotted cap dollars, a source said.

[RELATED: 49ers injury report: Willis, Asomugha unavailable to practice]

One week after Haralson was traded, the 49ers sent outside linebacker Cam Johnson to the Colts. Johnson was coming off a monster final exhibition game against the San Diego Chargers. It was unlikely he would have been active for games to open the season with Skuta and Lemonier ahead of Johnson, a seventh-round pick in 2012.

Aside from the uncertainty surrounding Smith, the NFL said it has still not made a decision on whether Ahmad Brooks will face a suspension under the league’s personal conduct policy.

Brooks, the starting outside linebacker on the other side, was not charged in an alleged assault case in which investigators reported in June he hit then-teammate Lamar Divens over the head three times with a beer bottle.