Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but Fooch is a crazy person who manages this blog with no rhyme or reason and it's worked so far. Who am I to argue?
San Francisco 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman is one of the best in the league at what he does. Or at the very least, he was before his injury.
I've been putting off writing this post because I wanted to get as close as possible to training camp to determine his health and whether or not he'll be good to go moving forward. Truthfully, that statement itself is somewhat concerning given his recovery from a torn ACL and MCL is beyond the norm. Then again, the 49ers are simply playing it safe with him at this stage, and I imagine as far as his "recovery" is concerned, he's all the way there.
Whether or not he'll wind up being the same as he was before the injury is the big question, isn't it? We can say he's at 100 percent, but that's just referring to his relative health, not his abilities. We won't know whether or not Bowman is the same in that vein until the regular season rolls around.
Fortunately, the things we've heard throughout the offseason program have all been positive. He's working, he looks fast on the practice field, there have been no significant setbacks and Bowman is in the right frame of mind. The only things we have to go by have been very positive. So if he does return to form, what exactly should we expect?
Before his injury, Bowman was making a case for being the best linebacker on the 49ers, which would have made him the best linebacker in the league. I'm sure those of you who have been around here for awhile remember back in 2010, when Bowman came in late in a couple games and kind of screwed things up. I thought Bowman was bad in the games he got real playing time in as a rookie, and that he me worried for 2011.
What a fool I was. Bowman turned into one of the best linebackers in the league, and as crazy as it is to say it, he looked better than Patrick Willis at times, something that was almost unthinkable as it happened. Beat writers started getting him mixed up with Willis during games. He's fast, he's strong, he's smart and he takes the absolute best angles. He's one of the absolute best in the league. In four seasons, he compiled 482 tackles, 9.0 sacks, five forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and three touchdowns.
If Bowman is anywhere close to where he was at before his injuries, then the 49ers are going to be a much better team than anybody outside of 49ers fans are guessing. Bowman is getting overlooked by just about everybody, and that bodes well for the 49ers. Let's all hope he returns to form.
Why he could improve:
This is certainly obvious, isn't it? Bowman didn't play last season due to injuries. If he sees the field, then he's improving, but that's probably not in the spirit of this section. Can Bowman improve from where he was before his injury? It's definitely possible after he shakes the rust off, given he'll be the guy in charge of the defense going forward. Bowman will be the centerpiece of the defense, and he'll be asked to do the things he's best at. The defense will be built for him to succeed.
Why he could regress:
There's not many injuries that compare with the dreaded ACL and MCL tear. Bowman tore things bad, and missed a massive chunk of his career because of them. It's not just possible, it's likely that he's not the same guy next season. Him being an All-World linebacker after that kind of thing is the opposite of a given. Bowman seamlessly fits into the kind of defense the 49ers want to run, so if there's any regression, it's due to the injury.
Odds of making the roster:
Bowman has a big contract, but there's no way he loses his spot unless there's something career-ending. He's going to remain in San Francisco for a long time. There's no chance he doesn't make the roster this season. Unless aliens.