Why NaVorro Bowman Might Be the Best LB on the San Francisco 49ers

Chris Trapasso@ChrisTrapassoAnalyst ISeptember 11, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 14:   NaVorro Bowman #53 of the San Francisco 49ers and his team prepare to take the field for the start of the NFC Divisional playoff game against the New Orleans Saints at Candlestick Park on January 14, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Patrick Willis is the best linebacker on the San Francisco 49ers, right?

He's been named to an All-Pro team in each of his five professional seasons and is arguably the most recognizable linebacker in the NFL along with Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens. 

Last year, Willis was joined by fellow linebacker NaVorro Bowman on the All-Pro team. It's not every year two players on the same team playing the same position receive that esteemed distinction. 

After a impressive and rather dominant performance against the high-powered Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Filed to kick off the 2012 season, it's time to investigate the 24-year-old Bowman and explain why he's steadily ascending up the NFL's linebacker ranks. 

At 6'0'' and 242 pounds, he possesses ideal size for an inside linebacker in the 3-4.  Need proof? Willis is listed at 6'1'' and 240 pounds. 

But there's more than size alone to becoming an elite linebacker in the NFL.

First, Bowman's an intelligent thumper. Reacting quickly to an inside run in this play, he has the power to take on blocks and shed them. But he also knows how to wait patiently for tackling lanes to open while his 49ers teammates occupy blockers. 

That was a rather simple fill by Bowman on that Cedric Benson run.  But his sheer power and amazing burst were undeniably visible.

His game is exceptionally strong in other areas as well. 

Because he's an amazing athlete with tremendous foot speed and a technically sound tackler, the Penn State alum is an asset in coverage, even in precarious situations against a talented player in space. 

In the second quarter of the Packers game, he made a remarkable stop on Randall Cobb in the open field.

Cobb was about nine yards away from Bowman when he caught a quick flare from Aaron Rodgers. Bowman demonstrated his amazing closing speed by tackling the second-year dynamo out of Kentucky a yard short of the first down. Not an easy task. 

As he approached Cobb, Bowman squared up and made sure of the tackle instead of over pursuing or lunging at the speedster. 

He made a similar play on tight end Jermichael Finley, almost instantly closing the gap and bringing the monstrous tight end to the turf before he could tack on any yards after the catch. 

This is something else that's not easy for most linebackers to do. 

Bowman's interception was a momentum-shifting play in the game.  It was actually more a mistake by Rodgers than a spectacular play by the linebacker.  Still, Bowman was in the perfect position to take advantage.

If Bowman's spirited play continues, he very well may pass teammate Patrick Willis as the best linebacker on the team. 

Yeah, I said it.