49ers training camp preview: Outside linebacker

49ers training camp preview: Outside linebacker
July 22, 2014, 11:15 am
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Ahmad Brooks registered a career-high 8.5 sacks last season and was named to his first Pro Bowl. (USATI)

Editor’s note: Matt Maiocco provides position-by-position breakdowns each day leading up to 49ers training camp. The full squad will report on Wednesday, with the first practice day scheduled for Thursday. In this installment, Matt focuses on the outside linebackers.

Who they have: Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith, Corey Lemonier, Dan Skuta, Aaron Lynch, Chase Thomas.

Who they lost: Darius Fleming.

Looking back: The 49ers had to dip into their depth at outside linebacker when Smith took a voluntary leave of absence early in the season.

Despite missing five games while in treatment for substance abuse, Smith tied for the team-lead with 8.5 sacks. Brooks had his best NFL season with a career-high 8.5 sacks. He was named to his first Pro Bowl.

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The 49ers won all five games while Smith was out of action, as Skuta and Lemonier shared the load. Skuta played on base downs with Lemonier entering in pass-rush situations. Lemonier had one sack in his rookie season.

Overall outlook: The 49ers return their top four outside linebackers from a year ago. In addition, they added Lynch, a very talented player whose character concerns caused his draft stock to plummet.

The 49ers might be required to test that depth at the beginning of the year. Smith is subject to discipline from the NFL under their policies on substance abuse and personal conduct. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Smith’s decision to voluntarily step away last season would be factored into any league decision.

Camp competition: As long as Smith and Brooks are available, there is no question they are every-down players. Skuta brings a lot to the table on special teams. He also proved to be effective on base downs.

Lemonier and Lynch will compete for the role as the 49ers’ top backup at edge pass-rusher. Lemonier made a lot of progress last season. He will be difficult for Lynch to unseat.

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