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49ers outside linebackers: Better, worse, or same in 2016?

A position by position look at the San Francisco 49ers’ roster, and whether the team is better, worse, or the same as the 2015 roster. Today, we look at the 49ers outside linebackers.

The San Francisco 49ers face a lot of questions surrounding their roster in 2016, and it will take some time to figure out where this team stands. The team was fairly quiet in free agency, but did plenty of work in the 2016 NFL Draft. Additionally, they will welcome back some injured players, and look to further develop young talent from the past few drafts.

With that in mind, I thought we would take a look at each position, compare it to various points last year, and consider whether the unit is better, worse, or the same compared to last year. The table includes the current group of players, and then a list of players on the 90-man roster for the first preseason game, the players on the Week 1 53-man roster, and the players on the Week 17 53-man roster. The idea is to compare this year with last year across the board. The roster changes from August to December, so I’m including three separate markers just to provide an overall view of the position last year.

We started with the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line, and defensive line, and today we move on to the outside linebackers.

Current 2015 preseason 2015 - Week 1 2015 - Week 17
Aaron Lynch Ahmad Brooks Ahmad Brooks Aaron Lynch
Ahmad Brooks Aaron Lynch Aaron Lynch Ahmad Brooks
Eli Harold Corey Lemonier Corey Lemonier Eli Harold
Tank Carradine Eli Harold Eli Harold Corey Lemonier
Corey Lemonier Marcus Rush Marcus Rush (PS) Marcus Rush (PS)
Marcus Rush Shawn Lemon
Jason Fanaika
Lenny Jones

The most significant change this year compared to last year is Tank Carradine. The 49ers initially had him bulk up to play defensive tackle, but then realized he was better as an edge rusher using his speed. He has dropped weight and is now a full-time outside linebacker. He might focus on rushing off the edge, but the team has had him practicing at other OLB tasks, including dropping into coverage. I suspect we see him primarily rushing the passer, but it makes sense to have him moderately capable of the other OLB requirements so he is not a complete giveaway when he comes on the field.

During the team’s offseason workout program, Ahmad Brooks spent much of the time rehabbing an injury. That got Eli Harold into the starting lineup during OTAs and minicamp. Will we see Harold supplant Brooks this season? Tank Carradine will be competing for pass rushing opportunities, but the bigger story to track is whether or not Harold is able to take Brooks’s job.