Updates from Thursday, Sept. 11
CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco provides an update on Navorro Bowman's recovery:
San Francisco 49ers All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman will officially be out for almost half of the 2014 NFL regular season as of Monday.
ESPN's Adam Schefter has the latest update on Bowman's recovery from knee surgery:
49ers also placed LB NaVorro Bowman on PUP, meaning he officially will miss at least the first six games this season.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 26, 2014
Bowman tore his ACL and MCL in the Niners' loss in the NFC Championship Game to the Seattle Seahawks, the eventual Super Bowl winners.
The linebacker corps figures to be thin in San Francisco to start the year. Between Bowman's absence and the impending suspension for Aldon Smith, it will be up to emotional leader Patrick Willis to carry the defense and keep it among the NFL's best.
Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area reported that Smith could be out for six to eight games—about the span Bowman is bound to miss:
Source: 49ers do not know verdict of potential NFL discipline for Aldon Smith, but they're bracing for 6 to 8 games.— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) August 8, 2014
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller observed during the Niners' preseason game versus San Diego on Sunday that Bowman's ability to run with opposing pass-catchers will be tough to replace:
That's where the 49ers will miss Bowman most—he was invaluable in coverage.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) August 24, 2014
Niners linebacker Ahmad Brooks is confident San Francisco can find a way to fill the void, per The Washington Post's Mark Maske:
We played without [Patrick Willis] a few times over the past couple years, and NaVorro has been there. Michael Wilhoite has stepped in and played. So he has some experience at the inside linebacker position. I think we’ll be fine. They’re two different type of players, you know what I’m saying? But all in all, our defense will be okay.
After making it to at least the conference title game in the past three years, expectations are high in San Francisco despite the key absences the team will have to endure to get back to that elite level.
Kaepernick and the first-team offense haven't performed all that well in the preseason, making the Niners' 2014 outlook appear all the more ominous. There isn't much time for Kaepernick to get everyone on the same page, and the offensive line must reestablish itself as a force to be reckoned with in the running game.
Whenever he does return, Bowman will provide a big boost to the Niners as a playmaker who embodies the physical style of play that has made San Francisco so successful in the Jim Harbaugh era. However, the tough NFC West division will make it difficult for the Niners to stay afloat until Bowman is back on the gridiron.