The New Aaron Lynch
Aaron Lynch was a Freshman All-American at Notre Dame, where he recorded 5.5 sacks and added 33 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 14 quarterback hurries, two pass breakups and a forced fumble. It is incredibly high praise, but when I watched his 2011 tape over the summer, I thought his game was very similar to that of J.J. Watt. For a number of reasons Lynch transferred to USF. He was required to sit out a season, and when his name came back in the spotlight, the thing that was most intriguing to me was the fact that his new weight was listed at 244 pounds, in comparison to having played in the 270-275 range at Notre Dame. So, not only was he shifting from 34 DE to 43 DE, but he completely changed his body type.
Early on, I’ve seen some claim that Lynch has been invisible or non-existent. I personally think that’s a bit unfair. The better term in my mind would be inconsistent. While some players need functional space (even schemed for them, or a by-product of other traits) in order to play at a high level, Lynch seems to be in the process of making the adjustment to space. He looked more comfortable to me “in the muck”. The main difference between playing inside and outside, is that when you are on the inside, everything is instantaneous; reactionary. There’s an immediate collision aspect, and everything else derives from that. On the outside, after the get off, there’s “air” or space as I mentioned earlier. While everything is still happening in a rapid pace, there’s an extra instant of thought and opposed to pure reaction.
While I think Lynch is still trying to get comfortable with his new position (and I only expect him to improve as the season, and his career continues) I have seen a few things that make me of a fan of Lynch. The below GIF is an example of a strength of Lynch, but also where I’d like to see him improve going forward. Lynch displays the fact that he’s very physical and that there is a lot of pop in his hands. However, for a 6’6 player, Lynch needs to take better advantage of his length. As I mentioned, too often Lynch likes things to happen in close corridors. He must learn to consistently extend his arms, and bench press the offensive lineman away from him, which will allow him to make better usage of his physical acumen. You'll see at the pause point that Lynch is getting almost no use out of his length, but you can also see how he still just annihilates the block.
The first two GIFs below shows why I have confidence in Lynch even with the inconsistencies in his play. The third GIF serves as my player comparison for Lynch. Be sure to note how similar the players look in their respective plays. In the Aaron Lynch GIFs, you’ll see that not only does Lynch have a lot of life in his hands as I showed earlier, but he has very quick hands. While he needs to work on his hand activity, the quickness aspect cannot be ignored, and quite frankly, is tough to teach. Lynch also has a good first step, short area quickness, and better flexibility that someone you’d expect at his height.
And finally, my player comparison for Lynch; current Cincinnatti Bengals and former Georgia Tech DE Michael Johnson.
Like Lynch, Johnson was criticized for only being a “flash” player who lacked consistency and didn't weigh enough. I was a big fan of Johnson, and when he went to the NFL, he bulked up and gained more consistency with his mechanics. Now, Johnson is one of the better overall 43 defensive ends in the entire league. While Lynch needs to work on improving various mechanical aspects (pad level, arm extension, and hand activity), he already boasts numerous impressive qualities along with long frame that’s built for speed. If Johnson has taught us anything, it’s that it is usually not a bad idea to bet on long athletes with advanced skillsets that simply need refinement. Lynch looks to be that same guy.