Is there upside in Aaron Lynch?
Aaron Lynch once had major upside in a Vic Fangio defense. Can that come back for the Chicago Bears four years later?
The Aaron Lynch signing brought the least headlines as the Chicago Bears brought the noise to kick off free agency in 2018. While Lynch is under the spotlight, and will likely end up as a rotational player who hardly sees the field, there is a chance for some upside to emerge. Before projecting what Lynch can become, let’s remember what Lynch was.
2014 Aaron Lynch
2014 Aaron Lynch was a Vic Fangio draft pick and a first-year contributor for a team in turmoil. It was the last season of Jim Harbaugh and the last season of Fangio in San Fransisco. However, it was the first season of Aaron Lynch and he was earning his keep.
The biggest thing you will notice in the difference of his tape is the hustle plays. Lynch was moving well, he was out in space, and he was making hustle plays to help impact his team.
Below, Aaron Lynch is chasing down Russell Wilson from behind and finishing a huge play that eventually ended a drive,
Aaron Lynch had the size to win with power, but he had a burst and closing speed to make a big impact as a pass rusher.
He was chasing players down from behind, and finishing plays down the field.
Lynch was also making a heavy impact in the running game. He had strength, and hand technique to get off of blockers and out on the edges making an impact.
Plays were not getting outside on Aaron Lynch. Who fought off blockers and kept moving towards the sidelines.
The 2015 season saw some similarities for Lynch. However, that is when the weight questions began to become a problem. Lynch had a back injury that offseason and put on some weight. Lynch was drafted at 249 pounds. He got up to 280 pounds that offseason and was working to play at 262 pounds. It did work, as he put up six sacks, but his conditioning made him a rotational bet.
With Chip Kelly moving to head coach the team changed defensive schemes. Every coach that he knew was gone. Lynch went from an outside linebacker to a defensive end on the edge. On top of that, the weight issues grew for Aaron Lynch. His wife got pregnant and he claimed that she was the reason he put on so much weight. He had to eat with her. That got him back into the 280-pound range. He tried to play himself into shape again, but in trying to get down before the season was suspended for substance abuse. During the season, missed six games with an ankle injury.
Lynch claimed he got as high as 300 pounds. The 49ers did not know what to do with him, they thought he might have been too big to play defensive end in the 4-3. He showed up to camp at 273 pounds and has worked on that as well.
However, the team did not trust his run defense, and he was reserved for a pass rushing role.
In that role, he still looked like there was some potential to build off. Lynch only put up one sack, but a lot of pressures and almost sacks that still made big impacts. Take the play below, an incompletion, courtesy of Aaron Lynch.
Aaron Lynch is dragging Carson Pamer to the ground as he throws an interception in the red zone. Lynch will not get credit but helped make the play.
Jacoby Brissett threw an incompletion as Lynch pushed into his path.
He showed off a variety of pass rushing moves to get into the backfield clean.
And he is able to get his hands on Russell Wilson as to force a quick pass and an incompletion.
Getting his step back
Lynch was supposedly back down to 260 by the end of the 49ers season. The team talked about moving him back to outside linebacker in the LEO role, due to his run issues on the inside.
However, you can see from last season, that out on the edge, he was still able to shed blocks in the run game. He maintains strong hand usage and technique.
Their issue was that he was getting pushed around in the interior. While he had defensive end size, he was still a player who was much better in space and setting the edge than penetrating.
The idea is that now that he is playing on the edge, he still has the hand use and technique to shake free and protect the outside. He still has the pass-rushing moves and the presence to get into the backfield. He was a step slow but was in a toxic environment for two years, and in year four, was being phased out due to his lack of ties to the organization.
If he can keep the weight off this offseason and gain a step of burst, with his hand usage and run stopping ability, there is something to be had from Lynch. If anyone can pull it out it is Vic Fangio. Time will tell.