Niners Defense Gets Spark From Lynch

Rookie outside linebacker provides some heat to what has been a dormant pass rush

Though four games, the 49ers have just five sacks.

It’s big dip from the 2013 and 2012 seasons, when the Niners had 38 (2.4 per game) and 2011, when they had 42 (2.6).

And, without suspended outside linebacker Aldon Smith, one of the NFL’s top pass rushers, San Francisco no doubt will have trouble pressuring quarterbacks until his return at midseason.

But in San Francisco’s victory over the Eagles Sunday, the 49ers were able to put more heat on Eagles QB Nick Foles because of a personnel switch that will carry through to Sunday’s matchup at Levi’s Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Rookie Aaron Lynch, a fifth-round choice from South Florida, was inserted on the 49ers’ nickel pass-situation defense. He produced immediate results.

Taking over for second-year linebacker Corey Lemonier, Lynch had two quarterback hits, pressured Foles on his errant fourth-down goal-line pass near the end of the game and had two tackles for a loss.

Niners defensive line coach Jim Tomsula told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle that Lynch may finally give the defense what it’s looking for.

“He’s not maxed out by any means,” Tomsula said. “I think that’s the exciting part. He’s got a long way to go, which is good. Because he’s playing pretty well right now.”

Lemonier, who’s been splitting time with Dan Skuta at outside linebacker, has had just one sack in his career. Though he was billed as a strong pass rusher, he hasn’t delivered. And, after losing to the Bears and Cardinals in back-to-back weeks, the 49ers were looking for a defensive jolt to get them back on track.

Lynch, a 6-foot-5, 276-pounder, has the long arms (34 inches) and big hands (10¼ inches) that GM Trent Baalke loves. His arm length is just 1 3/8 shorter than Aldon Smith’s, and his hand size is a half-inch larger than Smith’s.

In the preseason, Lynch had some outstanding outings, including a game against the Chargers in which he had a sack, two hurries and three batted passes.

From what he saw Sunday vs. Philadelphia, head coach Jim Harbaugh believes Lynch deserves the shot to keep producing.

“He was really running, really pursuing and put pressure on the quarterback when he was out of the pocket,” Harbaugh told reporters. “Thought he had some other fine plays. I mean – physical, power and speed. Just keep coming, Aaron. You’re doing a nice job.”

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