The 49ers outside linebacker situation is one of the hardest to gauge on the team. Every player on the roster at the position has at one point or another been "the answer" to the 49ers pass rush, and all of them seem to excel in everything other than the pass rush when it's all said and done.
We've got Parys Haralson, never great but never terrible, he disappears for stretches of time but always seems to be in on tackles. He was going to be the answer for rushing the passer last season and that didn't work out. He has the one move, and offenses figured him out after his increased playing time. He can cover, but has a tendency to lose his guy when there's misdirection. He's a solid tackler, though.
Ahmad Brooks was "the answer" this year. He's shown a propensity to apply pressure, but questions of his work ethic remain and plague his standing. One plus is that he's been playing surprisingly well in the passing game. Probably better at this point than Parys Haralson, so he could be the future starter. Closes in on the ball well. Jump for more.
Travis LaBoy is now on season-ending injured reserve, but he's been very consistent with his pressure. What else can he do? I don't really know, to be honest with you. He breaks down in coverage and I have not been all that impressed.
Manny Lawson is still the most consistent of the bunch. I feel as though he has the best technique when it comes to rushing the passer, though he drops back into coverage more. I'm comfortable with him on any tight end in the league, and he's a danger to block every punt he's in on. Lawson is very fast, good instinct to the ball and is rarely the guy to blame for a blown play. Still, he doesn't have a very consistent playmaking ability. He'll also likely bolt soon, as another team is likely to give him some good money. I'll be upset when that happens.
So with LaBoy out, that brings us to ... Thaddeus Gibson, perhaps. He's been inactive since the 49ers took him off of waivers when the Steelers let him go due to some other needs. A fourth round selection for the Steelers in this past draft, Gibson is a great physical specimen, but obviously very raw. The Steelers know what they're doing when it comes to linebackers, and it's likely they were upset to see him go. Could he be a future starter on the 49ers? I'm not entirely sure, but look for him to be inactive and maybe see some action on Sunday. I know I want to see him.