Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman Leading a 49ers Defense on the Rise

May 23, 2012; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke (center) talks with linebacker NaVorro Bowman (53) and linebacker Patrick Willis (52) after OTAs at the 49ers practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE

The San Francisco 49ers have already been hard at work this league year. For most of us, it's usually a good day when pictures and video are released from the Niners' football oasis. And there is currently a lot going on in said oasis; one of those is the pair of All-Pro inside linebackers focusing building upon an already elite defense.

Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman spoke to the media at the end of last week, and courtesy of 49ers.com, the faithful were provided with some raw quotes and insight. San Francisco's defense caught the attention of virtually every regular NFL fan, and the squad's potential is sky high. But to reach that ceiling, this is going to have to be a productive offseason for everyone.

If they want to be great they have to perform consistently year-to-year, but they are definitely capable. Willis and Bowman spoke about what's been getting them going this year -- where they are at mentally approaching this coming season.

Patrick Willis opened:

"Just knowing what we were a part of last year, and knowing that it wasn't good enough. Knowing that we can be better and knowing that we can do better. I think that's what's fueling us. To know that we still have that much more to give and so much more to get."

Bowman spoke about his second year as a starter: "It's a lot more slower, you know; coming in and being prepared. And I think, just leading -- leading the guys and not being complacent with what we accomplished last year. Just keep staying on edge and trying to get better everyday." It seems as if Bowman is assuming the role of a leader next to Willis. He's been a phenom at the inside linebacker position, and is still looking to improve.

No. 53 went on to discuss the 49ers' approach on defense to 2012. "You know, starting from scratch. Not acting like we know we already did it before. We're starting all over and just really trying to get better at the defenses that we learned last year and we're putting some new things in," said Bowman. "So, we're definitely taking advantage of the time we have now and it should make us a better team."

The 49ers have time now that they didn't have in 2011, and according to Bowman, it's time that should reveal itself to be valuable. To think San Francisco's defense is adding layers to the 2011 product is very exciting.

Willis gave his two cents on the transition to year-two in the same defense. Willis added, "I mean, last year was our first year in the defense. And now we're in meetings and we're like, 'how did we go the whole last year not knowing that?' It's just understanding the defense that much more."

With a better understanding of the defense, San Francisco should be able to play more instinctual and let their physical abilities take over -- the mental aspect will become second nature. I could see the Niners defense becoming that much better at swarming the football with this kind of development.

Buckle up because the league's No. 1 defense is still climbing.

Follow me on Twitter: @DeSimone80

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