Yes, you read the clickbait title correctly. David Bonilla of 49erswebzone put together an article yesterday covering a recent John Lynch interview on KNBR, in which one of the major topics was competition at the linebacker position. Lynch was complimentary of his group at MIKE and WILL, expressing excitement for the 4-way battle for the two spots between NaVorro Bowman, Malcolm Smith, Ray-Ray Armstrong, and rookie Reuben Foster.
While that section may be filed under “relatively routine offseason coachspeak”, Lynch went on to explain that Bowman will be competing heavily once the exhibition games begin. Over the past several years, it’s been a virtual certainty that Bowman would be a starter if healthy - but the guarantee aspect of that seems to have changed. Obviously, Bowman is a great player, and if he’s healthy, there are very few reasons he wouldn’t extend his history as a starter. However, I think this snippet speaks more to a culture of competition than anything regarding Bowman’s ability. Lynch mentioned that Bowman will receive his normal veteran off-days, but his work load in the preseason games will be more extensive than years past.
Bonilla added a Kyle Shanahan line from May, in which the new HC expressed regret that there would be at least one high quality LB watching the game from the sidelines, which ultimately adds to the belief that competition for starting spots will be high. Furthermore, I recall a Shanahan interview within the past month in which he expressed a willingness to embrace a youth movement, by expressing an unwillingness to stunt future growth just for veteran steadiness.
Ultimately, this story is something of a nothing burger. Each level of the defense has this same situation, where “entrenched” starters will need to compete to solidify their role on the team - this portion of the interview could have just as easily substituted Armstead or Reid and still make the same point - there will be competition. Oh yes, there will be competition.
Also, we get to see more Bowman in preseason games. Onto the links.
A Brief History of Patrick Willis in GIFs | DeSimone, covered by Bonilla, 49erswebzone
On Bowman having to earn his spot in new-look defense | Bonilla, 49erswebzone
Grant Cohn compiles some QB stats and doesn’t give any analysis | Cohn, Press Democrat