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Nick Moody in Line for First NFL Start vs. Chargers

He knows "jack."

Meaning, he's well-versed in playing the inside linebacker position known as "jack" in the San Francisco 49ers defensive scheme.

Nick Moody, the player in discussion, knows this position quite well. And now, he will have to showcase his knowledge this Saturday night.

With Chris Borland likely sidelined for the remainder of the season with an ankle injury, Moody, a second-year linebacker, is in line to make his first career start against the visiting San Diego Chargers.

Moody filled in for Borland for most of the second half of last week's loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Moody, a sixth-round draft pick, who has mostly played as a coverage player on special teams, recorded five tackles in the losing effort.

"It felt real good, "Moody said, "especially knowing that the guys had confidence in me."

He was also involved in the most controversial play of the defeat. Moody was flagged 15 yards for roughing the passer after he struck Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson directly in the chest. NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino came out earlier in the week and said the hit was a legal play, despite referee Ed Hochuli ruling Moody had struck Wilson with the hairline of his helmet.

Moody, who clearly hit Wilson with the front of his face-mask, reacted to the league's statement on Tuesday.

"It's cool you admitted your mistake," Moody said, "but at the same time, it doesn't do anything for us."

Moody and the 49ers will have to move on to face an 8-6, veteran-laden San Diego team that is looking to keep its playoff hopes alive.

With San Francisco officially eliminated from postseason play, Moody doesn't expect to see a lack of effort from his teammates in a game that can determine whether the 7-7 49ers finish the year with a winning record.

"Everybody takes pride and responsibility in doing their own job," Moody said, "and we know if we all take care of our own responsibility, we'll play well as a whole."

Moody's increased role comes with a loss. Borland's impressive run (107 tackles) as a starter has likely come to an end. Though he'll likely finish the year as the team's leading tackler.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said it would be a "stretch" to see the third-round draft pick return to the lineup this season.

So that means Moody is most likely in line to start at "jack," next to Michael Wilhoite, who is the team's "mike" linebacker and the only player in his position group to start every game this season. Veteran Desmond Bishop was added to the 53-man roster on Tuesday in favor of practice squad linebacker Shayne Skov.

With Moody as the clubhouse leader to start, the newcomer to the defensive huddle said he expects another valiant effort from the 49ers this week, just like the one they showed against the Seahawks.

"We can show that we're tough guys," Moody said. "We're not pushovers, and we're willing to fight. We want to finish the season with a winning record."

Moody's biggest role in this upcoming game, besides stopping the run, will tap into his college experience as a safety at Florida State. Moody will likely man up against Chargers tight end Antonio Gates.

Judging by Moody's demeanor when the topic was brought up to him, the 49ers linebacker appeared to be confident about his potential matchup against a pass-catcher who leads San Diego with 10 touchdown receptions on the year.

"I've had experience covering guys," Moody said. "It's probably my comfort zone."

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