Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but Fooch is a crazy person who manages this blog with no rhyme or reason and it's worked so far. Who am I to argue?
I really don't know what's going on with San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks and his ongoing off-field issues. Since he and Ray McDonald were accused of sexual assault and many other things in early May, I haven't heard much of anything. As such, those things aren't going to have any bearing on what I have to say about Brooks on the field going forward.
Brooks is a pass-rusher through and through, with 41 sacks in eight seasons in the league. That includes six sacks in 2014, 8.5 sacks the previous season and 6.5 sacks in 2012. He also typically is good at getting pressure in general, when he's not being called for being offsides or encroachment.
He's also mostly capable when it comes to pass defense, though he's not called upon to do that often. I think he's the third-best pass rushing outside linebacker on the team, but the second-best defender when it comes to pass coverage, and that's where his place on the team gets a little fuzzy. I've talked a lot about second-year player Aaron Lynch and how I think he's outright a better player, but if Lynch can't defend the pass then the 49ers coaches will likely want to keep Brooks in a starting role.
Lynch and Brooks both had six sacks on the season, though Lynch ultimately took 100 fewer snaps than Brooks. Lynch had eight quarterback hits and 27 quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus Brooks notched 11 hurries and five hits. Lynch went after the quarterback on 90.8 percent of the time opposing teams dropped back to pass. Brooks came in at 72.9 percent.
That's where the big difference is. For what it's worth, I thought Brooks was "fine" in pass coverage last season, though it's nothing to write home about. I'd say it's average ability in that vein, so the floor isn't too high for Lynch. But what about the rest of his game?
I just think Brooks isn't that great in the run game -- PFF agrees, giving him a -4.1 rating against the rush last season -- and believe Lynch's impact in the pass rushing department makes Brooks expendable. He's expensive, he's aging and he was never an elite pass rusher to begin with. He can still be a positive force on the field going forward, but if it's at the expense of Lynch, I think it's a mistake.
Why he could improve:
If the 49ers aren't sold by Lynch, then Brooks could be a starter and he can certainly improve from where he was last season. He's definitely reached his ceiling at this stage in his career, but that doesn't mean he can't improve on a "just OK" season. Brooks seems like a solid fit for Eric Mangini's defense, and he will be playing opposite Aldon Smith, who is confident he won't be getting in trouble anymore. Improvement shouldn't be expected.
Why he could regress:
Brooks isn't a young gun anymore, and he's had plenty of off-field issues to hamper him. Couple that with the fact that Lynch is nipping at his heels and a new coaching staff and defense in general ... there's plenty of reasons to suspect Brooks will regress. He's always been a decent pass rusher but he's also been streaky at best, and with all the competition at this point, I'd bet on regression over improvement.
Odds of making the roster:
This is a really interesting proposition ... Lynch earning the starting role wouldn't make Brooks expendable, but surprisingly strong play from Corey Lemonier or even rookie Eli Harold could lead to Brooks' ousting. I don't know how the 49ers feels about Lynch's ability to defend the pass or play a complete game, so I'm not going to suggest Brooks departing is likely. I'll say his odds of making the roster are something like 80 percent.