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?
Everything about San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Corey Lemonier screamed potential to me when the 49ers grabbed him in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. I liked his size, I liked his athleticism, I liked the hours of film I watched on him and thought he would be the eventual successor to Ahmad Brooks. He needed to develop some of his finesse moves thoroughly, but I ultimately felt he'd look good opposite Aldon Smith some day.
Two seasons later, Lemonier is still just a bundle of potential, with the caveat that he really hasn't played well in his limited time thus far. He's clearly been surpassed by Aaron Lynch and Eli Harold certainly seems to make him expendable. But what do we know about him?
We'll start with Pro Football Focus -- they were not kind to Lemonier last season. He played in eight games, and in those eight games PFF gave him a -6.6 grade in the pass rush department and -0.9 in run defense. Overall, he had a -9.6 overall grade. While those grades don't provide a lot of context on their own, they did grade him out negatively in the pass-rushing department in every game he played in.
He especially struggled against the Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago Bears, and I agree with both of those assessments. Lemonier played the most in those two games, and we can consider his lack of success a pretty big reason for him getting fewer snaps throughout the season. He played 39 snaps in Week 1 and 29 snaps in Week 2, but wound up playing 10 snaps in Week 7, two snaps in Week 10 and eight snaps in Week 11.
We can attribute some of his lack of playing time to Lynch coming into his own, along with both Smith and Brooks being around. There was simply no room for Lemonier, the promising but under-developed linebacker, let alone Lemonier, the under-achieving linebacker.
That doesn't mean there's no chance for Lemonier. I think the 49ers still don't like Brooks' contract overall, and if Harold isn't ready just yet and Lemonier starts showing up in training camp and the preseason, I could see Lemonier unseat Brooks for salary cap purposes. I'm totally comfortable with Smith and Lynch as the starters going forward. I'm not so certain the 49ers are just yet, but if Lemonier shows anything that makes the team think he can step in if need be, then Brooks could be out of here sooner rather than later.
Why he could improve:
Lemonier has a ton of potential, but we've already talked about his lack of opportunities and his lack of actually taking advantage of the opportunities he has had. If Lemonier does get playing time, I still think he has the right size, speed and playing style to excel in the 49ers' system. Obviously, he wouldn't earn one of the starting spots but if he sees the field on defense at all, he stands a chance at improvement.
Why he could regress:
Of course, Lemonier is a long-shot at this stage. His struggles last season could be a clear sign that he simply doesn't make the roster at all, or winds up being inactive next season. If he doesn't play, he'll regress, right? Other than that, he's basically played poorly enough that this is kind of a superfluous section.
Odds of making the roster:
This is a tough one for sure. I didn't hear anything about Lemonier throughout the offseason program to this point, and I will form most of my opinions as to his chances of making the team based on what I hear and see at training camp. For now, I think Lemonier is a 50/50 player, but that's primarily due to the fact that I expect the 49ers will carry more outside linebackers than you might usually expect of a team.