I know I’m a little late to the party on sharing this, but Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com has been handing out NFL Podium Awards for the top three players at each position group. Yesterday he took on the linebacker position. The Silver and Gold he handed out for that position went to Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.
Gold: Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers
For over a decade, this spot was firmly in the grasp of the Ravens’ Ray Lewis. However, Willis has been the gold standard for the last few years, and he hasn’t shown any signs of relinquishing the title soon. Through his first five seasons, Willis has been to five Pro Bowls and been named first-team All-Pro on four occasions. He’s averaged 138 tackles per season and also collected 17 career sacks. His combination of speed, explosiveness and instincts is tops in the league. The 49ers’ defense has become the most feared in the NFL, and Willis has been the captain of the ship since arriving in 2007.
Silver: NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco 49ers
If Willis is going to face any competition for the top spot over the next few seasons, it will likely come from the player who lines up right next to him every Sunday. Bowman exploded on the scene in just his second season in the league. He led the team in tackles with 143 — his 111 solo tackles ranked second in the NFL — and also recorded a pair of sacks. Bowman was named first-team All-Pro for his efforts. His style of play is very similar to Willis’. He has the speed to range from sideline to sideline, and he’s explosive on contact. At only 24 years old, he’s just scratching the surface of his potential greatness.
He also handed out medals for special teams and tight ends. Andy Lee got a bronze as did Vernon Davis…