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McGinest: 49ers linebackers among best in the NFL

Jun 26, 2017 at 5:31 PM

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NFL Media analyst Willie McGinest ranked his top five linebacking corps in the NFL. Among the list is the group that belongs to the San Francisco 49ers. That group of linebackers ranked number four on McGinest's list – one spot higher than the Oakland Raiders but behind the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, and Carolina Panthers.

The players who McGinest listed as key contributors to the 49ers' ranking were Ahmad Brooks, NaVorro Bowman, Elvis Dumervil, Malcolm Smith, and Reuben Foster. Brooks and Bowman are the only returning members from the 2016 season who are on the list. The rest are offseason acquisitions. Smith was acquired at the start of free agency while Foster was selected at the end of the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Dumervil was signed earlier this month.

Factors that went into the ranking included the players' ability to create pressure on the quarterback, stop the run, set the edge, and cover.

McGinest had the following to say about the 49ers' linebackers:

"New general manager John Lynch is building a stout defense in a short time, as reflected in the spirit of Lynch's Tweet on Monday about adding veteran pass rusher Elvis Dumervil: 'Just added another stud to harass QBs.' Dumervil joins a consistent Ahmad Brooks, former All-Pro NaVorro Bowman (who's returning from injury), experienced former Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith and Reuben Foster, one of the best rookies at the position. When Bowman and Patrick Willis played alongside one another, they were electric. If Foster -- who can be not just the best defensive rookie this season but the best first-year pro, period -- digests the defense, he could assume the Willis role in 2017."

McGinest knows something about linebackers. He played the position for 15 seasons with the New England Patriots (1994–2005) and the Cleveland Browns (2006–2008). McGinest was elected to the Pro Bowl twice and won three Super Bowl championships over his career.

There has been some concern that Foster might not be ready for the 2017 season, but no one within the 49ers organization appears to share that worry. The rookie linebacker is recovering from surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder following Alabama's 2016 season. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has recently stated that Foster looks on schedule to participate in the team's training camp, which kicks off on July 27th.

"He's been doing great with his rehab," Shanahan said on June 14th. "I really have no concerns. I think he'll be more than ready to go by training camp. That's my feeling. I can't promise that, but I'd be surprised if it wasn't."

Shanahan also said that he expects Foster to be ready the first time the team puts pads on for practice.
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