Aside from the team’s surprisingly strong 4-1 record the 49ers have had a few pleasant surprises this season that have been very interesting to watch develop. First is the play of Alex Smith, has anyone beat the odd’s more than this guy in 2011? Alex’s play under pressure and improved decision making has made Jim Harbaugh look like a genius for bringing him back.
Next is the play of Navarro Bowman, I think even Trent Baalke the guy who pulled the trigger on Bowman in the draft and let Takeo Spikes walk away in favor of him still couldn’t think Bowman would be THIS good THIS fast. Please do not get me wrong here, I think Patrick Willis is the best Inside Linebacker in the NFL right now and will be for a long time. With that said Navarro Bowman would make a lot of teams happy as their version of Willis or other feature ILBs like Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher you get the picture. The point is the guy is a STUD. The one element of his game he may actually have on Willis is his pass rush ability, combined with Patrick this could be the best ILB combo in the NFL today.
How about the play of Trent Baalke’s 2011 draft class? While Colin Kaepernick’s career has consisted of some awkward handoff’s and 3 passes thus far the other 49er rookies have shined. First round pick Aldon Smith currently leads the team with 3.5 sacks after breaking out vs. the Eagles with 1.5 sacks only to follow that up with a fantastic 2 sack performance the next week. Fourth Round Pick Kendall Hunter led the NFL in rushing during the preseason and has given the 49ers something they desperately needed the last few seasons, a change up RB to pair with star Frank Gore. Hunter has shown big play ability as a rusher and a receiver and has already came up big in week 3 scoring the go-ahead TD with Gore on the sidelines. Then there’s Chris Culliver, the Cornerback turned Safety in college turned CB in the NFL with the 49ers when they made him their 3rd round pick. Culliver has proved at least in the short term he has what it takes to play CB in the pros after playing significant time in week 4 and again in week 5 Culliver has come up big. Several other rookies including Bruce Miller who is making a nice transition to Fullback after playing defense in college along with Colin Jones, Demarcus Dobbs, Ian Williams, Mike Person, Daniel Kilgore and Scott Tolzien have found their way onto the 49ers roster this season.
Then there is the complete and utter dominance of the front 7, the Defensive Line and the Linebackers have been great in 2011, maybe the best in the NFL this season. The 49ers have not given up a 100 yard rusher in 28 games now, almost 2 full seasons, simply incredible when you think about it. They let Manny Lawson, Abrayo Franklin and Nate Clements walk all strong in the run game. Replaced them with Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Isaac Sopoaga, Ray McDonald and Carlos Rogers. The result, they got better in areas they weren’t that good in, added some good players to the roster and have been even more dominate in the front 7 than they have in the last couple years despite the unit being the team’s strongest.
For those of you thinking well what about the defensive backfield? Well I don’t consider that a surprise of any kind. The 49ers just added better players around the best ones they already had in this unit. Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner aren’t going to make you worse, especially when you keep Dashon Goldson around with a chip on his shoulder. More on this unit later in the week.
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Tags: 49ers Front 7 Bruce Miller Carlos Rogers Colin Jones Daniel Kilgore Defensive Line Demarcus Dobbs Donte Whiter Frank Gore Front 7 Ian Williams Isaac Sopoaga Kendall Hunter Line Backers Manny Lawson Mike Person Nate Clements Navarro Bowman Patrick Willis Scott Tolzien Takeo Spikes