SANTA CLARA, CA - JULY 30: Aldon Smith #48 of the San Francisco 49ers participates in drills during practice at the San Francisco 49ers training facility on July 30, 2011 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
As we enter the first "game week" of the 2011 NFL season, the San Francisco 49ers will be assessing the various position and roster battles on both sides of the ball. One battle for playing time involves the starting outside linebacker spots.
After letting Manny Lawson walk, the 49ers OLB position consists primarily of rookie Aldon Smith and veterans Ahmad Brooks and Parys Haralson. There are some other players in the mix, but those three are the ones likely to see the most starting time. Accordingly, they find themselves competing for the two starting positions.
At the start of training camp, Aldon Smith was working with the second team defense, although it seemed pretty clear that he would be getting some starting reps as a defensive end in the third down pass rush defense. However, over the course of ten days Smith may be emerging as a legitimate challenger for a starting role. Thus far we've heard nothing but raves about Smith's performance thus far. Joe Staley and other players have been impressed with his abilities and his incredibly long arms.
Matt Barrows put together a rundown of the rookie performances to date and further discussed the impression Smith has made thus far. Ahmad Brooks missed some practice this past week, which allowed Smith a chance to work alongside Parys Haralson in the first team defense. Brooks appears to be on the mend, but it will be interesting to see how the defensive depth chart is affected once Brooks is 100%.
It sounds like Brooks started out fairly well in camp, but we haven't heard much since. However, now we might see Smith leap-frog Brooks on the depth chart. We might have a better idea of where things stand when the 49ers roll out their starting lineup on Friday. In the meantime, this coming week of practice could prove pivotal in this battle for playing time. How do you see the OLB battle being decided?