With the 2015 regular season just around the corner, it’s time to stop thinking about who’s no longer here, and shift our focus to what players will help the San Francisco 49ers surprise some people under new head coach Jim Tomsula.
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When one door closes, another opens, and it looks like a certain outside linebacker in particular is about to get a huge opportunity. According to Ryan Sakamoto, OLB Aaron Lynch is on track to start Week 1 against the Minnesota Vikings, an honor that is well deserved.
Lynch was expected to play a big role this season anyway, but he’s now been thrust into the limelight after the team cut ties with OLB Aldon Smith. This is good news for Forever Faithful, as Lynch was outstanding during his rookie campaign, and has the ability to be a breakout star.
Just how good was Lynch in 2014?
According to Pro Fooball Focus, Lynch was in the top 10 among outside linebackers in pass rushing efficiency with a grade of 10.3. All in all, he was credited with 41 total pressures, recording six sacks, eight hits and 27 hurries. His sack total was tied for the team-lead, which is impressive considering he’s playing limited snaps and only started three games.
When he did lineup with first team, Lynch proved he belonged with strong showings in back-t0-back starts in Weeks 10 and 11. He recorded six tackles in 27-24 win over the New Orleans Saints, and followed it up with a dominating performance in a 16-10 victory over the New York Giants. In what was arguably his best performance as a pro, Lynch pressured QB Eli Manning eight times, and was credited with a sack as well.
Despite the potential, Lynch does have some catching up to do. Nagging injuries have reportedly left him a bit out of shape, and he’ll have to shed weight to get himself back into form. In the meantime, he’ll most likely be inserted into the left outside linebacker role, which is where he primarily played last season. OLB Ahmad Brooks will slide over to the right side to replace the recently released OLB Aldon Smith.
As the 49ers enter a new era, Lynch will be an important cog. Ideally, he’ll show enough in a expanded role that San Francisco can just pencil his name in for the foreseeable future. Hopefully, in years to come, he and rookie OLB Eli Harold can be just as imposing as Brooks and Smith were during their time together.
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