Yesterday, we learned that NaVorro Bowman is mini-Patrick Willis, and we'll continue with our grades today by taking a look at another linebacker. We're going alphabetically, so this is by coincidence, but we'll need take a look at one of the 49ers' pending free agents, Ahmad Brooks. If you check out the Season-In-Review section here, you'll find the rest of the posts we've done thus far.
Brooks has been a player who's career is defined by wasted potential. Since he came into the league, he's been spoken highly of in regards to his athleticism, power and potential, but hes never been able to put anything together consistently from a mental standpoint to make it onto the field. He even struggled doing so when he came to the 49ers, coming in here and there to rush the passer but never getting significant playing time.
That all changed this past season, with Manny Lawson departing for the Cincinnati Bengals, Brooks was pressed into a starting role. The 49ers drafted Aldon Smith, and early on it was all a battle of who would he be taking time from - Brooks or Parys Haralson. While Smith did take the occasional snap from Brooks, it quickly became Haralson who saw the bench when in fact Smith replaced one of them - the 49ers did spend a lot of time with all three linebackers out there. The majority of the time, nobody sat. But Brooks had himself a pretty good season, regardless.
|2011 - Ahmad Brooks
Brooks took just about every snap available at left outside linebacker this season, and was very effective in the passing game. He recorded seven sacks on the season and had 46 quarterback pressures, which was good for third on the team. In the nickel formation, Brooks went to left defensive end and rushed the passer, and did a very good job on that side. Brooks also had 15 quarterback hits
He was also pretty good in the run game, and made some good tackles in the backfield on running backs. His tackling form was actually solid for the first time in his career. He's always been a hard hitter, looking to knock the wind out of people with every tackle, but has left a lot to be desired in regards to wrapping up the running back before he escapes outside. Brooks kept the inside linebacker mop-up duty to a minimum when he had a chance to make a play.
Remarkably, Brooks wasn't terrible in coverage when he was targeted, but he did have a tendency to lose track of plays. He'd cover his man well, which surprised me, but didn't do so great in the zone, failing to pass off players and keep track of the quarterback at the same time. Still, he's not great in that regard and he certainly seems more like a pass rusher than a complete outside linebacker.
His biggest issues were penalties, or failed pass-rushing due to mis-timing. Brooks was only called for four penalties on the season, but it seemed like an awful lot more, didn't it? In fact, Mike Iupati, Tarell Brown, Alex Smith, Joe Staley, Delanie Walker, Dashon Goldson, Bruce Miller and Anthony Davis were all called for more penalties. Well, this doesn't include declined or offsetting penalties, but still. Brooks was far too jumpy on the line of scrimmage and if it didn't cost the 49ers a penalty, it certainly screwed him up more than a couple times, having to get back to the line and re-start his rush, etc. Just not good presence of mind.
Brooks looked much better as the full starter than I thought he would, but he's still not a hugely complete player with a ton of range. Still, he can rush the passer, which is more than you can say for Lawson, who was better with his range. I guess the 49ers can't have both at this point, but given how good the defense was, I'm not sure they need it.