No. 8: Linebacker Patrick Willis a 49ers Bright Spot in 2009
Things still weren’t going too well for the Niners in the late 2000s, although there were a number of core players around which the franchise could build.
One of those, of course, was the 2007 rookie, Patrick Willis, who already cemented himself as one of the league’s best linebackers after back-to-back Pro Bowl campaigns and a first-team All-Pro nod his first year in the league.
Willis had plenty of special seasons during his career in San Francisco. But few stood out anywhere close to what he put together in 2000.
As far as the basics, Willis’ 152 combined tackles and 114 solo tackles both led the league among all defenders that year. On top of that, Willis added three forced fumbles, eight passes defended and a career-high three interceptions to his list of yearly accolades.
No wonder Willis was named first-team All-Pro yet again after putting in one of the best defensive seasons from a linebacker in NFL history.