Why 49ers OLB Corey Lemonier Starts In Base, OLB Eli Harold Shines In Nickel



With the San Francisco 49ers continuing to lose players either via retirement, free-agency, and suspensions, one has to consider how well they will be this season. A new coaching staff combined with a new scheme, it appears on the surface that life will be difficult for the red and gold in 2015.

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And with the recent news surrounding OLB Ahmad Brooks, it just seems to be getting worse, as the team tries to move forward under a new regime. But the show must go on and two players who should benefit in Brooks absence are two third-round picks.

As of now third-year OLB Corey Lemonier will likely get the starting nod simply due to his experience. In 32 regular-season games, Lemonier has recorded 19 tackles and 1.0 sack. A far cry from the production the 49ers have been accustomed to on the right side but something that’s not entirely his fault, as he has always played behind Pro Bowl talented players.  

Now, the Auburn product will get his chance to shine and it remains to be seen how well he will fare. To be honest, I would rather roll the dice on this year’s third-round pick OLB Eli Harold. He is a better overall athlete that can not only provide a pass-rushing presence but drop back in coverage while playing in open-space.

Something that new 49ers DC Eric Mangini will likely demand of his front seven, as his defense takes on a more aggressive approach, I just don’t see Lemonier being much of an asset.

I spoke to many 49ers players and they all described Harold using one word, “athletic.” And that’s exactly what I saw during training camp. He has extremely quick feet and when you combine that with his lateral quickness, you can’t help but wonder how a player of his caliber fell to the 49ers in the third-round.

Mangini will put his players in the best position to make plays, and it appears that Lemonier will likely start in the team’s 3-4 base while Harold replaces him on nickel packages. Something that was similar to 49ers OLB Aldon Smith’s rookie season in 2011 when he split duties with OLB Parys Haralson, I envision a similar scenario in 2015.


But keep in mind, this is a new defense, and a heavy pass-rushing play-call can be dialed up on any given down. Something that’s polar opposite from DC Vic Fangio as he rarely blitzed, it will be interesting to see who blossoms, as this defense should be exciting to watch.

With the 49ers looking to field another top five defense for the fifth consecutive season, it will need to start up front, as they need to set the tone down in the trenches.


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Ryan is the Founder/CEO of NinerFans.com, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at ryan@NinerFans.com or call him at (408) 622-0996.