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ILB duo provides rare value for 49ers 'D'

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Dan Arkush
Executive editor

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Posted Aug. 31, 2012 @ 4:32 p.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

The tremendous natural talent that Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman share is hardly the only reason behind their steadily rising double-barrel success.

“It’s a really interesting dynamic,” a Niners insider said of the league’s best ILB tandem by a wide margin. “Willis is a down-home country boy, and Bowman is from a gang-infested urban area (Washington D.C.), but they both come from extreme poverty and have this real ‘poor guy’s’ attitude. They both think they have to work twice as hard as anybody else, and they are both very study-oriented, especially Willis, who even asks the offense questions to expand his knowledge.”

The flexibility that Willis and Bowman provide is a rare and extremely valuable commodity.

“They play each other’s positions so well,” the insider said. “Sometimes they’ll switch positions on their own, just to confuse offenses.”

Just how good can Bowman, who made a quantum leap last season, and Willis, who already had established himself as one of the league’s top defenders by the end of his rookie season, actually become?

“They really could be a very special pairing,” the insider said. "The way they’re going, I could both see them being Hall of Fame-caliber guys 10 years down the road. Willis, for sure, is already well on his way to Canton.”

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