49ers Roundtable: 5 Questions on the Upcoming Season

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4. Whose loss will impact the defense greater, Aldon Smith (9-game suspension) or NaVorro Bowman (knee injury, on PUP list)?

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Nikhil Ramgiri: NaVorro Bowman. The 49ers will certainly miss Aldon Smith, but they know what Corey Lemonier and Dan Skuta are capable of doing in his stead. With Bowman, Chris Borland and Michael Wilhoite haven’t proven that they can produce anywhere near Bowman’s level of productivity yet.

Jason Fierros: As good and as beneficial Aldon Smith is, Navarro Bowman will be the biggest loss for the 49ers this year. He has been the heart of the 49ers’ defense the past three years, and his 140+ tackles in each of those seasons will definitely be missed.

Sam Churich: NaVorro Bowman. He can’t be replaced. He can make plays that very few linebackers in the league can make.

David Ochoa: NaVorro Bowman’s absence will have a much bigger impact. The 49ers are already used to not having Smith and have a number of adequate backups to do his job. There is a much larger gap in talent between Bowman and his backups.

Marc Grandi: Losing Aldon Smith for nine games will hurt the defense more than missing NaVorro Bowman for at least the first half of the season. Bowman is a great player, but Smith—when on top of his game—affects the game more often. He pressures quarterbacks often (racking up a historic number of sacks in his first few seasons in the NFL) and created havoc. Bowman doesn’t have any weaknesses, but he’s easier to replace than the dynamic Smith.

Maggie Pilloton: NaVorro Bowman. Patrick Willis and Bowman are an almost unbeatable combination, and it will be tough to replace Bowman’s production and his passion on defense. Also, Chris Borland and Michael Wilhoite haven’t exactly proven themselves as reliable backups yet.