My initial response to the question of whether the Lions should call former San Francisco 49ers Pro-Bowl linebacker Navorro Bowman was a resounding no. A quick look at some stats revealed that Bowman was giving up 8.5 yards of run after the catch.
That is exactly the opposite of what the Lions typically want from their linebackers. The Lions scheme calls for the second level of the defense to keep their man in front of them and limit their yards after the catch. Bowman also has a coverage grade of 45 from PFF. I am not a PFF zealot, but I do believe that when someone says it looks like a duck, and the numbers show that it quacks like a duck, it is almost invariably a duck.
There was just one thing that did not quite fit that narrative.
What The Lions Are Getting Now
Take a look at these plays by strongside linebacker Paul Worrilow as an example of the difference between Bowman, and what the Lions are getting right now. Worrilow is not a bad player and has actually received a pretty decent coverage grade from PFF this year. I use his only because he is the player that would lose his starting spot if Bowman were to join the Lions. Worrilow has also missed a few games and that makes this a need for the team.
What The Lions Would Get From Bowman
Bowman is actually very good in coverage. He is better in coverage than most of the Lions linebackers it turns out. He does not have the speed he once did, but he more than makes up for it with his veteran savvy. That shows up through his impressive route anticipation. His feet are active, and he moves laterally at the top of his zone drop while offensive routes are developing. He undercuts other routes when his zone is empty. He puts himself in a position to take advantage of an under-throw.
The reason I chose the Cardinals game was to illustrate a point that is my main issue with PFF grades. They do not take in to account the degree of difficulty a player is being asked to perform. On the first, he is flawless in coverage on a tight end. For the next two plays, Bowman covers Larry Fitzgerald and does a good job. On the final play, he drops from a fake blitz to a fifteen-yard deep zone. This was just four consecutive pass plays on a single drive. What the 49ers were asking Bowman to do was not reasonable.
Bob Quin Should Call Bowman’s Agent
The 49ers game against the Indianapolis Colts was the most revealing to watch. The 49ers defense looked completely different when Bowman was in compared to when he was not. When Bowman played the Colts offense stalled. When Bowman was on the sideline the Colts marched down the field at will. The 49ers have started to play some of their younger guys, they know this season is over. According to 49ers GM John Lynch, Bowman requested his release and the team decided to grant it. Watching the Colts offense march down the field while lesser players were on the field is the likely reason for that request. He wants to win, and I will take a guy like that on my team any day. Bob Quinn should too.