Corey Lemonier getting early chance

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- One of the positive outcomes from the situation surrounding linebacker Aldon Smith is rookie Corey Lemonier is getting a chance to play for the San Francisco 49ers.

Lemonier has played the past two games while Smith is in rehab for substance abuse. He is splitting time with Dan Skuta, who is getting a lot of work in passing situations and has also shined on special teams. Smith could be back on the field sometime next month, but even then Lemonier likely will have a role.

The 49ers took Lemonier out of Auburn in the third round with the No. 88 overall pick. I spoke with Scouts Inc. draft expert Steve Muench to get his thoughts on Lemonier as a prospect. Muench said there were concerns about him (there always are when grading third-round talents), but Muench thinks Lemonier has real NFL pass-rush potential.

Here are Muench’s thoughts on Lemonier, who is becoming a major factor on the 49ers’ 53-man roster:

He can definitely help, especially with the pass rush. We were concerned about his effort at times and in fairness he may have been frustrated playing on a bad team in 2012 because his motor was noticeably better on his 2011 tape. We also felt that he can read keys and get off blockers quicker as a run stopper. On the other hand, his initial burst and closing speed make him a constant threat rushing off the edge. For what it’s worth, he posted the third fastest 40-yard time and 10-yard split at the 2013 combine. He also has the length, upper body strength and lateral mobility to develop a variety of pass rush moves.