The 49ers were reasonably confident that second-year pro NaVorro Bowman would be able to hold his own this season as the starting inside linebacker alongside Patrick Willis in place of the departed Takeo Spikes. But there were few, if any, daily team observers who thought Bowman would be outperforming Willis the first month of the season. "He's running free, leading the team in tackles, and is a better pass rusher than Willis," one observer said of Bowman. "I really think he has taken a liking to the new coaching staff. (Former Niners head coach Mike) Singletary wanted his ’backers to be thumpers that could smack the guard and make tackles. NaVorro is more of a cagey, shoot-by-his-guy type who seems more comfortable in the new system." Said Niners defensive coordinator Vic Fangio of Bowman, "He's played well, but we expect him to play better moving forward. He's been active for us."