The San Francisco 49ers are 18 days from their first training camp practice which means we'll start to get a better handle on who will rise and who will fall in the competition for roster spots. To prepare for training camp, we're going to go through a bubble watch of the entire roster. The plan will be to go position-by-position, and then compile it into our first bubble watch of training camp.
We continue our run through the positional depth charts, with a look at the outside linebackers. Thus far this week, we've been able to take a look at the quarterbacks, the running backs, the fullbacks, the wide receivers, the offensive line, and the defensive line. We'll get to the tight ends in the coming days, but since we had a Vernon post this weekend, I figured we'd give it a little breather. And so, today, we continue on the defensive side of things with the outside linebackers. The veterans will report on July 23, and the rookies will report on July 16.
Locks: Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith, Corey Lemonier
Strong Bubble: Dan Skuta, Aaron Lynch
Weak Bubble: None
Longshot: Chase Thomas
Much like the offensive line depends on Alex Boone's status for Week 1, the outside linebackers depend on Aldon Smith's status for Week 1. Most people believe he'll face a suspension. My guess is approximately four games, Bill Polian has said three games, and others wonder if he might face more. Whatever the case, odds would seem pretty good that Smith will be on the Reserve/Suspended list, thus opening up a roster spot.
If Aldon is suspended, Corey Lemonier and Dan Skuta would likely be the candidates to rotate into his role. I list Skuta as strong bubble because it is entirely possible Lemonier shows enough to secure the role for himself. I think they still keep Skuta around in a sort of Parys Haralson role, but Skuta could very well get cut when Aldon finishes his potential suspension. He's a very solid veteran, but if Lemonier is showing enough, there are enough other positions that will want to maintain their additional depth.
Aaron Lynch is the most interesting case of this group. He's incredibly talented, but he had plenty of off-the-field issues through college. He's got the talent to be a great reserve pass rusher, but we don't know if he will remain focused and productive. I think he makes the roster given the likely extra spot with a potential Aldon Smith suspension, but I think he'll be able to stick around beyond that. My guess is he spends a decent amount of 2014 inactive each week, but he's an interesting long term option.
Lynch could potentially add further depth to a unit that is looking better and better. I'm really high on Corey Lemonier, and I think we see him take a sizable step forward. It could be enough to the point that when Aldon Smith returns, Lemonier still gets pass rush work in place of Ahmad Brooks at times. I'm really looking forward to seeing what Lemonier does in year two.