Editor’s note: Insider Matt Maiocco will be providing position-by-position breakdowns each day leading up to 49ers training camp, which opens with their first full-squad practice on Aug. 1.
Who they have: Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Aaron Lynch, Eli Harold, Corey Lemonier, Marcus Rush
Who they lost: Dan Skuta, Chase Thomas
Looking back: Smith served a nine-game suspension for violations of the league policies on substance abuse and personal conduct. He finished the season without a sack in the final five games and had a total of just two sacks. Brooks showed up to camp out of shape. His attitude and erratic attendance of meetings got him benched for two games late in the season. Lynch entered the NFL with a lot of questions about his character, but he excelled on and off the field, tying Brooks for the team-lead with six sacks.
Overall outlook: Smith and Brooks should be ultra-motivated to bounce back after disappointing seasons. Smith enters his contract year with the potential of a lucrative deal awaiting him next offseason. Lynch sat out most of the offseason program with a hamstring injury, but should be expected to take another step forward. Harold, a rookie, provides the 49ers with depth to replace Skuta, who signed a contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars as a free agent.
Camp competition: Brooks had a good offseason. But if he slacks off, Lynch has the ability to push him for the starting job on the left side. The 49ers can easily feature a rotation of three outside pass-rushers as part of their nickel package. Harold, a third-round draft pick, will be in competition to replace Lemonier, a third-round pick in 2013 who has been mostly a special-teams player. Lemonier will be pushed for his spot on the 53-man roster.
Bottom line: This position should be considerably stronger than it was a year ago, assuming Smith is on the field when the season begins and remains there. Smith and Brooks have a lot to prove, and that should mean good things for the team’s pass rush. The 49ers' young depth also looks formidable.