SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Three weeks into training camp, the San Francisco 49ers don't have a clear favorite to replace injured star inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who is expected to be out for about half the season.
Veteran Michael Wilhoite entered camp with an edge on rookie third-round pick Chris Borland. However, 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Wednesday the race to replace Bowman was "pretty even."
I think that bodes well for Borland. Wilhoite entered camp with the edge because of his familiarity with the systems and had success as an injury replacement for Patrick Willis last year. However, I believe the fact that Borland is still in the mix means the coaching staff will give him every opportunity to win the job in the next three weeks.
A couple of weeks ago, Fangio said the former Wisconsin tackle machine sometimes got himself in trouble because he relied on his instincts too much. I asked Fangio on Wednesday if that was still the case and he said "sometimes."
Fangio thinks Borland's biggest problem is he doesn't finish his assignments before giving way to his instincts. He said that could simply be part of the transition of going from the college to NFL game. Saturday, two days after his first preseason game, Borland said he needed to play more relaxed and he needed to focus on his pre-snap game.
If Borland makes the necessary adjustment in the coming weeks, don't be shocked if he is playing beside Willis in Week 1 at Dallas. Fangio said if Borland wins the job, it is possible Willis will move back to the Jack inside linebacker spot from the Mike spot he is manning and Borland would play the Mike. Bowman played the Mike and Willis played the Jack.