The San Francisco 49ers are set for training camp to begin at the end of the month. But before the team can defend its NFC West division crown this upcoming season, let’s take a look at the depth of each position group on the roster as they prepare for camp. Linebackers are up next.
When discussing the 49ers linebackers, it’s only natural to begin with the All-Pro inside duo of
RETURNERS: Ahmad Brooks (seventh season, fifth with San Francisco), NaVorro Bowman (third season), Parys Haralson (seventh season), Aldon Smith (second season), Patrick Willis (sixth season),
The 49ers rolled the dice last year by playing with just three outside linebackers but they made it through the season without incident. On the inside, the 49ers will return a pair of quality contributors who also make a major impact on the special teams unit. Larry Grant and Tavares Gooden both signed deals to return to the 49ers this offseason following their first year with the team and Jim Harbaugh in 2011. Grant proved to be a crucial part of the team’s late-season success, as he filled in admirably for Willis down the stretch while the All-Pro recovered from a hamstring injury. Like Grant, Gooden was a staple of last year’s stellar kick and punt coverage units, and said he hopes to carve out a bigger role on defense in 2012. The 49ers also added a couple of linebackers through the draft – picking Notre Dame’s Darius Fleming in the fifth round and Virginia’s Cam Johnson in the seventh round – but both players have unfortunately experienced injuries in their first offseason with the 49ers. Fleming reportedly tore his ACL just minutes into his first NFL practice during a rookie minicamp in May, while Johnson underwent a minor knee procedure recently but is expected to be at full strength for training camp. Free agents like Eric Bakhtiari and players like Michael Wilhoite – who spent part of the 2011 season on the 49ers practice squad – are also fighting for spots on the stocked 49ers depth chart.
Need tackles? Willis and Bowman got you covered. The explosive duo accounted for nearly 300 tackles its first full season together, according to 49ers Public Relations.
“Pat and NaVorro are just special, they really are. The Lord’s blessed them with a lot of talent and they’re very gifted, but the thing that I love about them is that they ask so many questions. They want to be great. Every day in practice they work so hard, they’re so focused and they have genuine love for each other.”
-Linebackers coach Jim Leavitt on June 8 after watching his team practice during the offseason program.