In 2011, the San Francisco 49ers developed one of the strongest front sevens in the NFL. The defensive line and inside linebackers, along with Aldon Smith, get much of the fanfare, but in reality the kudos should extend to Ahmad Brooks and Parys Haralson. We've discussed Brooks plenty, but Parys Haralson often falls under the radar. Heck, I overlooked him in our alphabetical run through the individual player grades this past weekend.
While Ahmad Brooks was just about an every down outside linebacker, his opposite was a dynamic duo of Parys Haralson and Aldon Smith. The 49ers drafted Aldon Smith as an outside linebacker, but for his rookie season, they let him focus primarily his pass rushing skills. He played a little bit in the 3-4, but spent the vast majority of his time as a nickel defensive end opposite Brooks. When he was out, Parys Haralson was the guy taking all the other snaps in the 3-4 look.
Early in Haralson's career he flashed some pass rush skills, leading the team with eight sacks in 2008. His sack numbers have decreased each year since then as he has become more adept at stopping the run. He does not bring the needed drop-back and pass rush skills a complete OLB would have, which resulted in the time-share with Aldon Smith.
Haralson was fairly successful in what he did as, in a similar vein to Alex Smith, he did his best at what he was asked to do. By basically platooning him with Aldon Smith, the 49ers worked around his weaknesses and found success.
Of course, with Ahmad Brooks entering free agency this year, that puts the 49ers in a position where they could have a fairly significant question mark at OLB. If Brooks leaves, barring an addition to the roster, the 49ers are looking at Aldon Smith and Parys Haralson as the two every-down outside linebackers.
Aldon Smith has a ton of upside, but in his year two are you comfortable with those two as the starting outside linebackers for the 49ers?