Through all the murky and dark, depressing moods we've had over the last year concerning the San Francisco 49ers, there have been a few glimmers of hope. Shiny gems that we know can be something special on this team. One of my personal favorites has been Aaron Lynch. His story, in of itself is fascinating: A kid who lit up Notre Dame, transfers after one season to USF, and is drafted amid "intangible issues" (i.e. Does he have the heart for it).
After two seasons, it's safe to say Lynch, at the very least, has few intangible issues.
Pro Football Focus has Lynch ranked in the top 10 for 2015 pass rushers, and it's a decent argument given how they did their rundown.On Monday, an article by Anthony Chiodo was posted that goes into greater detail on not just Lynch's stats, but also his play for his first two seasons. It's a different analysis on Lynch's production. For one thing, it takes his entire career in the NFL into account, not just 2015. What's interesting is while Lynch has been impressive, a lot of his stats have been just about average to just above average, and if you give this a read (which I recommend you do) you'll find that's just fine.
I'm a firm believer in the saying, "Stats may lie, but tape doesn't". And it certainly seems like Lynch does a lot more on the field than in reality. But that's where it gets interesting, and I'll just quote Chiodo:
Lynch wins primarily with his natural skill-set; power, quick acceleration, and speed around the corner. Those abilities are mostly constituted in three areas: bending-the-edge, bull rush, and initial jump. Lynch's long legs give him the ability to cover tons of ground when running-the-arc compared to the kick slide of offensive tackles. That combined with his flexibility makes his speed rush difficult to stop. He also has impressive strength, which, when combined with his length, makes him a huge bull rush threat. His ability to beat offensive tackles with an initial jump off the snap is powered by the quick acceleration and burst in his lower body.
All of Lynch's sacks have primarily come from those three areas along with his freakish athleticism. By pass rush standards, that's a very limited move-set. Yet, he's actually made name for himself. Compare this guy to Corey Lemonier who relied on a small move-set but couldn't put it to good use after a couple games. One guy is projected a part of the 49ers future, and the other is someone that may not make the roster this year. For comparison, Aldon Smith was known to have quite a variety of pass rush moves that gave linemen fits.
Whether you want to take PFF's rankings or this analysis by Chiodo as proof of Lynch, there is one thing to take from all of this: this guy is disrupting offenses using only two moves, finding consistent success doing it, and can only get better. If Lynch continues to improve and work on introducing more ways to beat linemen, the sky is the limit for this guy. He came in very raw and made an impact (being a steal of a pick in 2014). 2016 will be a big test for Lynch. Let's see if and what new moves he brings to the table to move forward.