Let’s be real, no NFL team can replace the play of All-Pro ILB NaVorro Bowman. A three-time first-team All-Pro, Bowman will nonetheless be missing in action to start the 2014 season. So what will Niners DC Vic Fangio do to offset that loss? Fangio said, “You know Willis is going to be in there and he can play either spot, and we’ll put the next best guy in there.” Could that guy be rookie third-round pick (No. 77) ILB Chris Borland? A question that scout.com Chris Biderman asked on whether Borland is learning both the “Mike” and “Jack” roles? Or how about front-runner ILB Michael Wilhoite who continues to be the logical choice due to his starting experience? No one really knows for sure.
But with Fangio realizing that he will be without two of the game’s best at their respective positions in ILB NaVorro Bowman and OLB Aldon Smith to start the season, how will the defense fare? Fangio admitted it won’t be easy as he said, “You know, any time you lose two great players, somebody’s got to go in there and do the job. We don’t expect those guys to be as good as those two guys are, they’re at the top of their profession. But we’ll find a way.”
Does that mean using different combinations in sub packages? Fangio explained that they may take a linebacker by committee approach saying, “We’ve got any type of possibility that can happen there. You know, we’re playing Willis at Mike now and Wilhoite’s playing Jack. You know, if somebody surfaces to be, give us a better combination of putting Willis back at Jack and somebody else at Mike, whether it’d be Borland, Wilhoite, Skov, [LB] Nick Moody is in the mix there, too.”
And with Borland being my top 49ers’ rookie thus far in training camp, I fully expect him to push Wilhoite for the starting job as Willis may be moved back to his “Jack” role while Borland’s inserted at the “Mike.” We will just have to wait how everything unfolds but so far Borland looks the part with both his instincts, smarts, and overall production.