San Francisco 49ers

49ers notes: With Ahmad Brooks in exile, two OLBs compete for starting role

Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson (22) gets away from the attempted tackle of San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Eli Harold (58) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015, in Denver.
Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson (22) gets away from the attempted tackle of San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Eli Harold (58) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015, in Denver. AP

Coach Jim Tomsula on Sunday said the 49ers continue to take a “day-to-day” approach with Ahmad Brooks, and the outside linebacker is not expected to practice this week entering Thursday’s exhibition finale against San Diego.

Last week, the 49ers sent Brooks home from Denver, where they were scrimmaging with the Broncos, after he was charged with misdemeanor sexual battery in connection to a December incident at the home of ex-teammate Ray McDonald.

Brooks’ exile could last into the regular season, and the team is testing possible replacements if the longtime starter is not in the lineup. That’s why rookie Eli Harold and third-year player Corey Lemonier started Saturday against Denver instead of Aaron Lynch.

Lynch, a fifth-round draft pick a year ago, was a pleasant surprise as a rookie. He played nearly 50 percent of the defensive snaps and tied Brooks for the team high in sacks with six. He’s almost certain to start the season opener Sept. 14 against Minnesota whether Brooks is back or not.

Tomsula, however, said he and his assistants wanted to see how Harold and Lemonier performed against the Broncos’ starting offense.

“There’s a lot of competition going on there,” Tomsula said. “We did want to see those guys on the field. I liked seeing them on the field together, and I liked seeing them against the best that the opponent had out there.”

Neither player stood out. Harold had a notable missed tackle on a Broncos running back. Lemonier was credited with a sack, but he merely tagged Peyton Manning after a teammate forced the quarterback to surrender and go to the ground. In the first half, Denver collected 14 first downs and had possession for more than 21 minutes.

The 49ers applied pressure. But inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman, not the outside linebackers, did most of the damage.

When asked how Harold and Lemonier player, Tomsula said: “I wouldn’t get overly exaggerated in it being terrific. I don’t think it was bad at all. I think there were ups and downs, the consistency of it. And that’s pretty much what we’re trying to sort out.”

If Brooks is not available, Lynch likely will play on the left side while Harold or Lemonier plays on the right.

No line decision – Tomsula said he and his staff were figuring out their best five offensive lineman and were not ready to announce a starting unit.

The right side of the line has been problematic since the beginning of training camp, and the team has shuffled the center-right guard combination throughout the summer.

Joe Looney started at center and Marcus Martin at right guard for the first two exhibition games. On Saturday, Martin moved to center, and sixth-round pick Ian Silberman moved to guard.

Colin Kaepernick had as many completions as sacks – two – against Denver and constantly was harried by pass rushers, who exploited cracks on the right side of the line. Denver scored a safety when pass rusher DeMarcus Ware got around right tackle Erik Pears and Kaepernick could not escape because Silberman allowed defensive end Antonio Smith to penetrate.

Et cetera – Asked why Jarryd Hayne didn’t get any opportunities to field punts Saturday, Tomsula said he has seen plenty from Hayne. “I feel very good about his abilities to field,” he said. “I feel very good about his abilities to perform with the ball in his hands on special teams.”

Hayne is competing with Reggie Bush, Bruce Ellington and DeAndrew White to be the primary punt returner. Tomsula hinted that White, a rookie, could play a lot Thursday.

▪ All teams must reduce their rosters to 75 players by 1 p.m. Tuesday. The 49ers, who have 89 players, are expected to start making those cuts Monday.

▪ Tomsula said he hasn’t decided how much Kaepernick and other entrenched starters would play against the Chargers. “If they do play, it won’t be a lot,” he said.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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