San Francisco 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman needs to improve his pass defense skills.
Rushing the passer is not his concern; it is his coverage skills that need to be improved upon. Bowman is not the tallest of linebackers, but he is an excellent run defender. His ESPN profile states that he weighs 242 pounds and is 6’0”.
Those measurements are comparable to former All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis. Not to compare Bowman to Lewis in the realm of accolades, but when it comes to size, the two are very similar. Lewis was always profiled as an inch taller and three pounds heavier than Bowman.
However, Lewis could cover tight ends with the best of them. Bowman, not a slouch himself, needs to improve these skills to stay relevant in a pass-happy NFL. The best way to do this is to do one-on-one drills with the elusive running back LaMichael James and the athletic tight end Vernon Davis during training camp.
San Francisco fans should not expect him to be the linebacker version of cornerback Darelle Revis, but he will improve working out with those two teammates. Consistent drills with James and Davis should lend itself useful in Week 1 when the 49ers face the Green Bay Packers at Candlestick Park. Depending on scheme, Bowman may have to cover the Packers’ top tight end Jermichael Finley.
Another consideration is some weight loss. To cover the league’s top tight ends that have height, speed and competition committee advantage defenders need to be as limber as possible. A seven pound drop may suffice in making Bowman more quick and agile while keeping enough bulk so he does not drop in defending the run.
Generally, linebackers cover tight ends and running backs. The problem is the wide gap in speed and agility that favors the offensive player. That is not even mentioning the rule that handicaps every defense, the five-yard rule in which there is no contact in passing after the initial five yards from scrimmage.
Bowman ran the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds at the combine. Tight ends average around 4.6 seconds and running backs run around 4.5 seconds, respectively. Speed is not everything in the NFL, but it does account for something, especially if it comes down to a foot race.