49ers: The Mon5t3r Void in the Linebacking Core with Bowman Gone

In the weeks that led to Navorro Bowman’s eventual release, Niners Live observed that his snaps were being gradually reduced and that a rift between Bowman and Coach Shanahan started as early as week #1 of the season.


Now that Navorro Bowman has left Santa Clara, scrutiny surrounds not only Head Coach Kyle Shanahan, General Manager John Lynch and Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh; but also the players that have filled in Bowman’s shoes: Ray-Ray Armstrong and Brock Coyle. We will examine their performance in the post-Bowman era and tell you whether this philosophy holds water.

The Writing was On the Wall

While there were rumblings about Bowman’s playing time being cut, it became apparent during the Colts game where the 49ers lost in overtime 26-23.  When asked about the situation, Bowman replied, “Um. I don’t know man, we had a conversation. I don’t know. They are doing what they want to do, and…I don’t know. I don’t like it. Nobody likes coming out of the game, but I’m a team player. They told me. But it’s hard to do that in the midst of a tough game. No player likes to be taken out.” Via Eric Branch of SF Chronicle. In that game, Bowman played 58 snaps and was replaced by Brock Coyle on passing downs. It was a game filled with missed tackles, especially on running plays, despite the fact that Bowman led the team with 10 tackles. Yet, it was widely believed that Bowman no longer possessed the ability to cover tight ends like he once did earlier in his career.

Important to note: Bowman felt upset and disrespected that his snaps were being taken from him by a player that was underneath his caliber of talent level in Coyle. Bowman seemed caught off guard by the new regime never sitting him down with a game plan on reducing his snaps or discussing a new define role on coming off the field on passing downs until game five of the Colts.

The Disaster that was the Redskins Game

According to Pro Football Focus, both Brock Coyle and Ray-Ray Armstrong, who has also filled in for Reuben Foster at the Will spot, surrendered 11 catches on 12 targets for 213 yards and one touchdown to Redskin tight ends. Note: Both Coyle and Armstrong missed several tackles each. They were repeatedly smoked by the tight end duo of Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis. Tight ends were able to use double moves or outright speed to blow by Armstrong and Coyle. Pass coverage told only part of the story, as Redskins running backs continued to blow by Coyle and  Armstrong as they tried in vain to arm tackle them. We can expect opposing offenses to use the tight ends in their strategy until Armstrong and Coyle prove worthy of teams game planning away from them.

Help is On the Way

Reuben Foster is expected to be inserted back into the starting lineup in week 7 against the Dallas Cowboys, which will probably mean fewer snaps for Brock Coyle and Armstrong inserted back in the Will position. That will not mean teams won’t try to exploit certain linebacker-tight end matchups. While this game is based on quickness, there is no substitute for instinct and experience. Bowman may have lost a step, but that is still better than the effort Brock Coyle and Ray-Ray Armstrong gave on Sunday. It’s a tough task trying to replace a Mon5t3r on defense and you can expect the 49er Faithful to remind the powers that be of that fact, every chance they get.

Please join us again soon on Niners Live, the home of the faithful fan and analyst from an objective/analytical lens, of course.

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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.comPro Football Focus49ers.comESPN.comNFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author and new Staff Writer @NinersLive.net, David Edmondson.  Co-Author, Content Creator, EditorSequoia Sims