5 Things To Watch In 49ers’ Final Preseason Game

2 of 6

Middle Linebacker Battle

With the loss of Navorro Bowman for at least the first half of the 2014 season the 49ers needed someone to fill that void. At the end of last year it was a no-brainer that Michael Wilhoite would be that guy.

That is, until they drafted Wisconsin Badger Chris Borland with their third round pick. Now there is a battle to be Patrick Wills’ running mate in the heart of the San Francisco defense, and a heated one at that.

Michael Wilhote has been waiting in the wings for the last couple of the years behind Willis and Bowman. He started two games in 2013 and now is looking to be the opening day starter for 2014. He has been very impressive so far combining for 19 tackles and a sack in three preseason games and it looks as if the position is his to lose.

Dec 29, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Francisco 49ers linebacker

Michael Wilhoite

(57) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously he will almost certainly be a downgrade from anything Bowman could bring to the field, but Wilhoite has shown to be more than just servicable when he is called upon to perform.

The challenger in the ring is rookie Chris Borland who thus far has been just as impressive as Wilhoite, especially against the run.

His three-game preseason total is 14 combine tackles and a sack and is showing why the 49ers decided to take him in the third round despite there being more glaring holes at that point in the draft. Borland can certainly bring it and he showed that in college.

In his final year at Wisconsin Borland had 72 solo tackles, 39 assisted, 8.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, a forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries. He can definitely do it all, though I’d say his pass coverage would need some work going forward. He’s not a bad guy to have as a rookie though. Going forward he could be the future at the inside linebacker position for the 49ers whether he wins this starting job or not.