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Patrick Willis Moves to NaVorro Bowman's LB Spot

Posted Jul 18, 2014

A look at how the 49ers defense will change things up with its All-Pro linebacker on the mend.



Our training camp positional previews continue with a look at the team’s play-making linebackers.

LEADING OFF

- Patrick Willis has been playing NaVorro Bowman’s “Mike” linebacker position this offseason. Willis has mastered the “Jack” inside linebacker spot, but will take on the strong-side position while Bowman recovers from his torn ACL. Willis was on the field throughout the offseason program and spoke positively about Bowman’s rehab work.

-Speaking of the All-Pro, Bowman watched minicamp practices and routinely rehabbed his late-season knee injury under the supervision of team doctors. Jim Harbaugh has said the 49ers expect Bowman to return to the field in the middle-to-late stages of the ’14 regular season.

- In the world of outside linebackers, Ahmad Brooks is coming off a Pro Bowl season and Aldon Smith has the support of his teammates and coaches after a challenging ’13 campaign. San Francisco developed a ton of depth at the position with the progress of second-year pass-rusher Corey Lemonier and the successful transition from Dan Skuta moving from inside to outside. The 49ers added to the group by picking up rookie Aaron Lynch in the fifth round of the NFL Draft.


PLAYER TO WATCH

Michael Wilhoite.

It appears as if Wilhoite will be given the first crack at filling in for Bowman. The veteran linebacker replaced Willis for one start last season, totaling a career-high 13 tackles against the Houston Texans. San Francisco has a pair of rookies in Chris Borland and Shayne Skov, plus second-year linebacker Nick Moody in the mix to start alongside of Willis.


EXTRA POINTS

Borland was a third-round draft pick out of Wisconsin. General manager Trent Baalke raved after the draft about the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year’s play-making ability. Borland backed up the hype, breaking up a number of passes in OTAs and minicamp sessions… Skov played one season at Stanford for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. The familiarity helped Skov sign with San Francisco as an undrafted rookie… Lynch, too, has a unique tie with the 49ers. His college coach, Willie Taggart, is very close friends with Harbaugh. Taggart helped vouch for Lynch during the draft process.

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