Little by little, coaches speak up for their players. They promote candidacies for accolades like Pro Bowl honors with words; the players do it with their play.
This is Jim Harbaugh talking about his bookend offensive lineman.
“Joe Staley and Anthony Davis are having great years. I was going to say having their best years. I think Anthony Davis definitely is. Joe Staley’s had a lot of great years. But they’re both playing at a very high level.”
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And this is defensive coordinator Vic Fangio talking about his veteran safety, Donte Whitner
“He’s played even better than he had last year when he made the Pro Bowl. He’s still tackling very well. He’s running our operation back there with a rookie (Eric Reid). He’s just playing with a lot more confidence. And he’s playing a little bit faster... It’s hard to say the guy’s playing better when he had a Pro Bowl season last year. But he is."
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In case the coaches' words and the players' play isn't enough, here are some notes to consider about five San Francisco candidates for the 2013 Pro Bowl squad.
It's not easy protecting the blindside of a quarterback. It's even harder to do so when said quarterback is constantly on the move. Staley has talked about the advantages the 49ers enjoy because of Colin Kaepernick's running ability, but Staley's own athleticism and awareness on the field should be taken into account, too. Not convinced? Staley, a two-time Pro Bowler, has given up just half of a sack this season, and he's committed just one penalty, of the false start variety.
Perhaps the offensive lineman with the best mean streak, Davis might also be the most overlooked. He's the only player on this list without his first trip to Hawaii. Halfway through his fourth NFL season, Davis has yet to miss a start. Davis is dependable. He's also dependably affective. There's no doubt he's helped the 49ers to a league-high 153 rushing yards per game.
Playing through a shoulder injury, Smith has righted a defensive front that has lost nose tackle Ian Williams to a season-ending injury and outside linebacker Aldon Smith. Justin Smith, a four-time Pro Bowler, has 2.5 sacks through eight games, but he's not the kind of player that can measured with statistics. He's the kind of player who makes teammates better, much better.
Despite missing two games with a groin strain, Willis only trails fellow inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman in tackles, with 42 to Bowman's 69. Willis has also forced two key fumbles in two of the 49ers last three wins, against Arizona in Week 6 and opposite Jacksonville in Week 8. He has made the Pro Bowl each of his first five NFL seasons, and there's no reason to think a sixth straight shouldn't be in order.
Fourth on the team in tackles with 36, Whitner has maintained his reputation as a big hitter in San Francisco's secondary. His in-progress name change, from Whitner to Hitner, proves that, too. But Whitner, a 2012 Pro Bowl selection, should be given as much credit for leading a defensive backfield that features the rookie Reid and a young nickel cornerback in Tramaine Brock.