The San Francisco 49ers will be looking for one linebacker to step forward this summer to prove he is capable of being starter Aldon Smith’s backup. As of right now, Cam Johnson has a legitimate shot at making the 53-man roster. However, he will have to beat out veteran Parys Haralson and 2013 third-round draft pick Corey Lemonier if he wants to move off the practice squad. There is no question the competition will be fierce, but the roster spot is certainly Johnson’s for the taking.
The 23-year-old played defensive end at the University of Virginia in which he recorded 130 total tackles, 32.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks in 42 games (34 starts) over a four-year span. San Francisco decided that Johnson is athletic enough to become a potential difference maker at the outside linebacker position.
Haralson has been recovering from a torn triceps that kept him on injured reserve last season, but he appears ready to compete for one of the two outside linebacker backup jobs. There is little doubt with the 49ers organization that he will be left off the roster, which means Johnson’s big competition will be Lemonier.
The fact that the 21-year-old was taken in the third round means San Francisco certainly has some expectations for him. Not to mention, Lemonier was first-team All-SEC in 2011 and second-team All-SEC last year. He showed a terrific skill set while playing for Auburn University, which means Johnson will certainly have his hands full.
I believe the 49ers will end up keeping all three players mentioned, especially if Johnson and Lemonier demonstrate that they can be effective on special teams as well as outside linebacker.