As week one of the 2014 NFL season draws closer, we start to gain some clarity over some of the position battles taking place in training camp. However, the competition to replace NaVorro Bowman may require the full duration of the offseason.
San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio was a man of few words when "discussing" the vacant inside linebacker position with reporters.
When asked if there has been any separation between linebackers Michael Wilhoite and Chris Borland, Fangio said, "No." Then when asked to rate the competition between the two, Fangio at least avoided a one word answer but responded with, "very even."
Needless to say its too close to call, but even more so, its probably too early with three more exhibition games to go for the red and gold. Yet, with one game under the belt for both, we do have a few numbers to give us some indication of how things have started.
Eric Branch of SFGate.com noted that Wilhoite played 23 snaps accumulating seven tackles and one sack. As for Borland, the rookie played 40 snaps with just one tackle in the 23-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Wilhoite filled in for Patrick Willis last year when Willis missed two games and impressed the coaching staff with his play in the process. Adding that to the two seasons of experience he has over Borland and that he outplayed the rookie in the pre-season opener, the Washburn product has seen himself taking first-team snaps in camp. But after the Fangio's comments, it merely looks like an early lead for the third-year pro.
According to several reports, Borland has shown a great work ethic and a knack of constantly being around the ball in practice and has drawn praise from his All-Pro teammate in Willis.
"He's a little pit bull. I love watching him play. He reminds me of NaVorro." described Willis. "They're real low and compact, and it seems like they never break stride. They're moving and they're always getting to the ball."
While Borland has impressed in practice by all accounts, he was rather quiet in his debut, at least on the stat sheet.
"I played hard and made a couple of plays, but made too many mistakes for my liking and what the coaches expect." said Borland, as he described his first NFL game.
The third-round pick out of Wisconsin has spent time at both inside linebacker positions and has expressed a growing comfort level which he gave credit to the dual practices and game with the Ravens.
"The practices were great. We were able to see some new things and see some new players as well, We got a lot of work in because we had more numbers, so those were beneficial for us…we're better for it."
The next chance for viewers to judge the competition will be this coming Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
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Tags: Chris Borland, Football, Michael Wilhoite, Navorro Bowman, NFL, Patrick Willis, San Francisco, San Francisco 49ers
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