Niners Live presents a transparent and thorough re-evaluation of the previous assessment provided for pass-rusher Aaron Lynch. Furthermore, we even make a great case as to why he is primed to finally play up to his full potential leading to a breakout 2017 season.
Aaron Lynch steps on the scene in 2014.
Standing at 6’5 270 lbs., Aaron Lynch, as a 5th round pick (150th overall) by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2014 draft out of the University of South Florida, hit the ground running and proved to be a steal towards the back end of the draft. In the course of 16 games, Lynch recorded 17 total tackles, six assists and six sacks along with four pass defenses (ESPN.com). Despite playing alongside seasoned vets and future Hall of Famers such as Justin Smith and NaVorro Bowman in the front seven, Lynch was not one to sleep on or be forgotten about. He was a vital addition and boost to the 49ers pass rush.
In a season in which the 49ers lost pass-rusher Aldon Smith to a suspension, the defense desperately needed a sustained force in the pass rush; Lynch answered the bell. Lynch didn’t post record sacks or anything historical, but he did, indeed, step in and resembled what looked to be a comparable replacement both rushing the passer and in run support. Coming off the edge as a stand-up OLB, Lynch bullied most offensive lineman that lined up in front of him and harassed opposing quarterbacks in the process.
Even when he wasn’t collecting sacks, he was batting passes out of the air and hurrying quarterbacks almost at will. Not to be labeled as a one trick pony that only rushed the passer, he also chased down running backs from the backside and stuffed opposing running backs, as well.
The sophomore campaign – 2015.
Determined not to succumb to the likes of the infamous sophomore slump, Aaron Lynch exceeded his rookie campaign stats in just about every category, but his production began to taper off towards the end of the season. Rounding out the 2015 season with 30 total tackles (+13), 8 assists (+2), and 6.5 sacks (+.5), Lynch continued to be a cog and asset on the 49ers defense.
Though his numbers improved in 2015, the last half of the season didn’t provide much to brag about. Over the last seven games of the 2015 season, Lynch only registered a half a sack, and failed to record a sack the last six games of the season. In addition, he also accounted for two tackles for losses, one pass defense and 12 tackles throughout that seven-game stretch. The 49ers also lost five of those last seven contests being outscored by double digits in four of the losses.
Hampering consistent performance and production his sophomore season in 2015, Lynch entered the season with a back injury which caused him to gain a significant amount of weight and balloon up to 280 lbs. His ideal playing weight is between 260-270 lbs. As expected with weight gain, speed, endurance and explosiveness all plummet when the body is carrying much more weight than normal. His second season was supposed to be his breakout year, especially with the release of former 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith (via Grant Cohn of the Press Democrat), but the added weight due to injury and limited mobility sabotaged what would have been a breakout season.
2016 – the year of adversity:
They say when it rains, it pours. The news of Aaron Lynch being suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy (described further on 49ers.com) definitely represented the pouring aspect in the career, potential and production of Aaron Lynch. Mainly due to the weight gain from his injury and his suspension, Lynch posted career lows across the board statistically and even looked winded quite often during games, which caused him to take plays off occasionally and miss both tackles and plays he’d normally make when healthy, at an optimum playing weight and on the field for a full 16 games.
Shortly after returning from his four-game suspension, Lynch was again bitten by the injury bug as he suffered an ankle injury versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on October 23, 2016. Between his suspension and the ankle injury, Lynch only played in seven games in 2016 and finished with 13 tackles, 1 assist, and 1.5 sacks.
On a Niners Live side note: Niners live recently discussed How New DC Robert Saleh should Utilize his Defensive Talent. Aaron Lynch is definitely one of the more talented talents he has had, and more importantly, the best-proven pass/edge rusher on the team.
Fearless Predictions: With the second pick in the 2017 draft, the San Francisco 49ers selected Solomon Thomas, defensive end Stanford University (via Niners Live). Yep, you read that correctly, that was no typo. Not only will Thomas be a key factor in returning the pass rush of the 49ers to the top 5 defense it once was, he is also a key element in the breakout season of Aaron Lynch. While Thomas can play anywhere along the defensive line (his size, strength, quickness and versatility make him the best value pick), he’ll line up at the left defensive end spot in the 4-3/4-3 under the scheme Robert Saleh is set to run in San Francisco.
I’ll close with this:
What does the aforementioned selection of Solomon Thomas mean for Aaron Lynch, you ask? Keep reading, and it’ll complete this puzzle for you. With Thomas’ 6’3″ 271 lb. frame lined up at defensive end in the 5 tech (outside shoulder of the tackle) occupying his corresponding tackle and max effort, Lynch will have the new job/position playing the LEO position (fifth man at the line of scrimmage, lined up on the outside shoulder of the tight end) in the 4-3. Lynch will rush off the outside hip of Thomas and do what he does best….…..wreak pure havoc while collecting sacks, tackles and tackles for loss flying off that edge right into the face of opposing ball carriers and quarterbacks. For an added bonus of the Niners Live fearless prediction, Lynch will see 10 sacks in his breakout 2017 season.
Between entering his contract year in this upcoming 2017 season, (spotrac.com) and coming off his worst season thus far, Lynch has ample motivation and incentive to fuel him to live up to this 2017 breakout season FEARLESS PREDICTION and aim to put to bed claims that he’s overrated and unachieved thus far. Lynch will be looking to live up to his full potential and hype.
Welcome back, Aaron Lynch, to the top tier of the San Francisco 49ers defense, oh how we’ve missed you.
As always, keep your eyes wide open, 49er fans. Niners Live will be watching with you. #eyeswideopen and often imitated but never duplicated… Go Niners.
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Kevin Mitchell new Staff Writer at Niners Live. Co-Author, Editor NinersLive.