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Chip Kelly offered insight into ILB depth chart after NaVorro Bowman injury

Time to figure out what’s next if NaVorro Bowman misses an extended period of time.

The San Francisco 49ers are awaiting word on inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman’s MRI to determine whether or not he has suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon. The all-world linebacker went down with a non-contact injury during the 49ers Week 4 loss to the Cowboys. Initial fears were that Bowman suffered an Achilles injury, and it is expected to be confirmed in an MRI.

The potential extended absence would leave a huge hole in the inside linebacker depth chart. The unit lost Ray-Ray Armstrong earlier in the season, and now Bowman’s departure leaves a unit woefully thin. The depth chart currently includes Michael Wilhoite, Gerald Hodges, Nick Bellore, and Shayne Skov.

Hodges and Armstrong rotated snaps next to Bowman, while Michael Wilhoite focused on special teams. When Armstrong went down, Wilhoite moved into the rotation, and in Week 4, Wilhoite started opposite Bowman. When Bowman went down, Nick Bellore moved in next to Wilhoite.

After Sunday’s game, head coach Chip Kelly discussed why Bellore, normally an exclusive special teams player, moved into the lineup:

“Bellore is always the back up MIKE, so that’s kind of how that works. So, Nick plays the backup MIKE. Gerald and Mike play the WILL position and Bo and Bellore play the MIKE position.”

When asked what would happen if Bowman missed an extended period of time, Kelly said, “We’ll have to talk about all of it because if Bo is out, we have to figure out exactly what we’ve got left at inside linebacker and then we’ll go from there.”

On Monday, Chip Kelly effectively said that Wilhoite, Bellore and Skov are all cross-trained at the two linebacker positions, while Gerald Hodges is only trained at the WILL position.

If Bowman indeed misses the rest of the season, does this mean we’ll see Bellore in a starting role for the first time as a 49er? Wilhoite replaced Bowman in 2014 when the latter blew out his knee, but we have seen all sorts of fluctuation between the two ILB roles. We’ll find out this Thursday when the 49ers host the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday Night Football.