The 49ers are hoping that less of Aaron Lynch will result in more production.
Lynch, entering his fourth year in the NFL with the 49ers, has shed 30 pounds, down to about 273, in hopes of regaining more quickness. When healthy, Lynch has shown he can put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Formerly an outside linebacker in the Niners’ previous 3-4 defensive scheme, Lynch had 12½ sacks combined in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, he played just seven games and had only 1½ sacks.
Now Lynch is transitioning to defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, and will battle to keep a roster spot and earn playing time through this training camp on a team that has much more depth on the defensive front. As camp begins, Lynch figures to be the primary backup to Arik Armstead at one defensive end.
Lynch will be in competition with Armstead, veteran free-agent pickup Elvis Dumervil, Ahmad Brooks and Eli Harold, among others.
Already, Lynch is reported to be showing more quickness without losing any strength.
“Thirty pounds will do a big difference in anybody’s body,” Lynch told Kelana Martin of the team’s website Tuesday. “I feel a lot better coming off the ball. I have a lot more wind. I’m not as tired as I used to be. Definitely a change.”
Martin noted that through the first few days of training camp, Lynch has had several sacks and an interception on a tipped pass.
The defensive end spot for which Lynch is targeted is called the LEO, a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position in which the player can rush the passer or drop into coverage. Yet at the outset of a play, he’ll have his hand in the dirt in a three-point stance as a defensive end. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh sees Lynch as a good fit.
“Aaron, he’s on the defensive line,” said Saleh this spring. “We’re going to keep his hand in the ground at all times. A couple years ago, when he came out of the draft, we (at Jacksonville) were looking at him as a possible LEO. So he has all the traits that you would like. Now it’s a matter of us trying to work with him to best utilize what he’s, in my mind, designed to do and that’s get after the passer.”
Lynch is excited about his fitness and his role.
“I’ve done what they’ve wanted me to do so far, and I’m going to keep doing what I need to do in order to help this team out,” said Lynch.