Saturday was a pretty rough day for 49ers fans given the news about Kendall Hunter, so I thought it might be nice to talk about another brutal injury to an even better player!
No, I'm not trying to be a downer; I actually wanted to look at a few responses Vic Fangio gave on Friday to questions regarding the inside linebacker position. Refusing to say who would start in place of NaVorro Bowman, Fangio did say the following:
Willis will be in there and whichever one's best will be in there. And it could be a combination just like we did when Aldon was out last year, you know, [LB Dan] Skuta played in one package and [LB Corey] Lemonier played in another. You can see, whether it'd be an inside linebacker playing in base and one playing in the nickel that are two different guys, so. All possibilities are open.
The underlying logic of this answer is, well, obvious: no player on the team can replace the type of production that Bowman creates every year. It just isn't going to happen; Bowman is too versatile of a player. But, so is Patrick Willis, and since he can play both ILB positions with ease, the coaching staff can plug in whichever player is best suited to the situation.
And so, we might be able to use Willis' versatility to compensate for Bowman's versatility. The fact that he can play-well, I sort of believe he could play any position on the defense, but let's not go crazy. But, the fact that Willis can play both ILB positions is incredibly valuable.
Should Chris Borland, Michael Wilhoite, or Shayne Skov be best suited to different aspects of a defense, then each man should play in those situations. And, the defensive staff can take comfort in the fact that Willis can make up for any shortcomings.
Is this a perfect solution? Of course not. Only Bowman coming back tomorrow would be the perfect solution. For now, this is not only a serviceable solution, but it's probably a good solution.