Here at Niners Nation, we're presenting a series called "90-in-90". We'll be looking at every player on the 49ers offseason roster, one player per post, from now until the start of training camp.
49ers outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks has been a pleasant surprise after being claimed off the waiver wire (upon being released by Cincinnati) in 2008. Since then he went from a spot-role in pass-rush situations to not only earning a starting job, but a contract extension in 2012 worth a potential $44.5M. He's a very underrated player, mostly because he doesn't have the sexy sack totals, but his role is crucial to the success of the defense.
Speaking of sacks, Brooks has had at least five sacks per season since 2009, with a career-high seven sacks in 2011, followed by 6.5 in 2012. Considering that he plays on third down (usually a pass-rush situation), one might like to see those numbers a little higher. Perhaps that's what the 49ers were thinking the last few years as they've drafted multiple outside linebackers, including Corey Lemonier in 2013.
I found a nice collection of highlights on YouTube and embedded them below.
Why he could improve in 2013
Brooks has the talent, it would appear, for a breakout season to occur. With all of the attention on Aldon and Justin Smith, he could find himself facing less blockers on the left side, which could lead to more sacks. Against the run he's an absolute beast, so I'm not sure how he can improve there. He could stand to cut down on the penalties, especially off-sides, which he seems to have at least one every game (not actually, but it sure feels that way at times).
Why he could regress in 2013
It's at least remotely possible that Brooks could see his playing time reduced, especially on third down, at the hands of a young guy like the aforementioned Lemonier. I think most of us agree that the team should employ more rotation along the defensive line (which includes Brooks in Nickel and Dime as he lines up as a defensive end). A fresh body with different moves gives the offense something else to deal with and could produce more sacks. He's still worth having around, obviously, because of his knowledge of the defense and superb performance on run downs, covering the flat, and rushing the passer from time to time.
Chances of making the roster
I think he's a lock to make the roster unless the team were to get crazy and entertain trade offers if another OLB on the squad shows they have the gumption to do the job...but that seems risky. Brooks is a ferocious tackler, he makes guys think twice before running his way, and he's smart, relentless, just a lot of things you want on the field. It would take a miracle for him to not be on the roster week 1.