The San Francisco 49ers’ defense wholesale jerseys online ranked last in nearly every statistical category in 2016. Of course, after linebacker NaVorro Bowman tore his Achilles in a Week 4 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, that defense was playing without its star.
Bowman’s value to the defense can’t be overstated and became even more apparent after last season. As he ages and returns from injury, keeping Bowman healthy and on the field should be the first priority for the entire 49ers staff.
However, could a player of Bowman’s caliber be better utilized elsewhere?
The 49ers signed Malcolm Smith, Dekoda Watson and Brock Coyle, but there’s little doubt Bowman is still the unquestioned leader of the linebacker group. Typically, the middle linebacker of a 4-3 defense, or Mike, is the de facto captain of a defense. He’s the one aligning players, relaying play calls and carrying significant responsibilities after the snap.
The Mike must have above-average athleticism with the speed, range and agility to fly around the field in both run defense and coverage. He has to be aggressive against the run with the willingness to meet 300-pound offensive linemen when filling downhill.
Fans have been spoiled over the last decade ,having both Patrick Willis and Bowman as excellent examples of traditional Mikes to watch. In his prime, Willis had one Cheap Jerseys of the best stretches for any defensive player in history, routinely totaling high tackle numbers and serving as an intimidating force on the field.
Bowman was a few years behind, but at his height, was a premiere sideline-to-sideline defender. Bowman had the tenacity to take on blocks in the interior run game and the speed and balance to beat running backs to the edge.
However, after his most recent season-ending injury, Bowman’s best position might be to move outside and play Sam in the 49ers’ new defensive scheme. And with a lack of talent anywhere else on the roster, it’s best for the team as well.
The Sam position in the 49ers’ 4-3 will require some transitioning of sorts for Bowman, but it may not require as much of a change as might be assumed. In fact, it may allow Bowman to best utilize his current ability, while protecting his body from continued injuries.
Bowman may not be able to run sideline to sideline anymore, given his career-altering injuries to his left leg, but he still shows elite ability to stack and shed blockers, locate ball carriers and secure tackles. In addition, he’s more than adequate in coverage and has shown a variety of pass-rush moves that make him a threat to blitz.
The Sam backer in a 4-3 defense is typically on the strong side — that’s the SLB versus WLB or Will backer — taking on lead blocks and responsible for tight ends in coverage. They have to have the physicality to beat blocks in tight spaces, with the strength to leverage gap control at the line of scrimmage. In some cases, they’re pass-rushing players that serve as edge run defenders as well.
For a visual of what Bowman’s role as San Francisco 49ers Jerseys Sam might be, imagine Dont’a Hightower of the New England Patriots. Depending on which game you watched, Hightower could be pressed to the line of scrimmage as an edge defender in the run game, stacked over a defensive lineman in a traditional role and he was even utilized in coverage. Bowman offers more athleticism than Hightower with a leaner frame, but he has the physicality to match any linebackers in the league.
Bowman will certainly challenge the move, and rightfully so. When healthy, he’s continually a top-tier linebacker in the league and recorded over 140 tackles in 2015 after missing the previous season in rehab from a torn ACL and MCL. He’ll point to past production and suggest there’s no reason to believe he can’t do it again. He may be correct. He’s a four-time first-team All-Pro.
However, the inside linebacker at the top of the draft, Alabama’s Reuben Foster, is a better player than any of the outside linebackers in the class and could play Mike. Ohio State’s Raekwon Mc