Earlier on, I took a look at the pass-rushing linebackers on the roster, how they've performed thus far, how they're likely to perform going forward, and where the fit into the team's plans going into next season. Before the season began, we tricked ourselves into thinking we had very few holes. The biggest issues were cornerback, returner and offensive line. Dealt with the second two, so naturally, we were pretty set, so long as our current defensive backs could at least play passable football. That didn't go so well. We've seen a few positions leave much to be desired, and I'll go through and try and take as realistic a look as I can at them, albeit a bit briefly. Today I'm looking at our starting outside linebackers.
Manny Lawson, OLB
Summary: Manny is definitely the most improved player from last year. He was absent for everything but the mandatory training camps, if my memory serves me right. There was a lot of discussion here about moving him, about Brooks taking his starting spot, about just letting him walk at the end of this season. Now I'm not so sure, considering his play. Manny has been everywhere. He's diving for every ball within his range, getting his hands on them. When he's rushing the passer, he's effectively beating his man and getting to the quarterback. Has a couple of forced fumbles this year.
Best Game: Versus Raiders, Week 6 (1 TAK, 1 INT) Lawson got a lot of good pressure and only had one bad play. Forced a couple of incompletions and blew everyone's mind (especially Jason Campbell's) when he dove to make the interception.
Rest of Season: I believe Lawson will continue to play well, pick up another interception and get a couple of sacks.
Next Season: The 49ers will try and hold on to Lawson at this point and keep him the starter on the left side. He is in no danger of losing his job to any of the players on the current roster unless he is no longer with the team. I see them offering him some money first, but I see him hitting free agency and ultimately signing here for a moderate amount of money.
Parys Haralson, OLB
Summary: Haralson is hard to quantify at this point. He's a good player, but he's not really making "wow" plays. When you think of him, you imagine him playing badly, but when you really watch him and look at the stat-line, he's on par with other players at his position. He does what he needs to do. He's got three sacks and provides decent pressure when he gets going after the quarterback. Haralson is prone to make mistakes at times, worst of all, his recovery is atrocious. We'll see him make a small mistake, and then instead of going and correcting hit, he'll exacerbate the situation with sloppy footwork.
Best Game: At Atlanta, Week 4 (5 TAK, 2 SAC) Sacked Matt Ryan twice, got in Ryan's face a number of times and handled Turner like nobody's business.
Rest of Season: I see him doing what he's doing now, give him another three and a half sacks to put him at 6.5 and he might grab a forced fumble or two. He'll continue to give way to Ahmad Brooks and Travis LaBoy in pass-rushing situations and may even give up some coverage snaps to Brooks as well.
Next Season: Parys will be back and competing with Ahmad Brooks or Travis LaBoy, or he'll immediately give way to a pass-rusher the 49ers pick up in the first three rounds of the draft. I see his starting job as in jeopardy as it stands right now, but he's not playing awful football or anything.