Jim Tomsula said the 49ers are monitoring linebacker NaVorro Bowman’s snap count as he works back from a major knee injury, but the 49ers coach hedged when asked if Bowman could benefit from a rotation at his position.
“In the passing downs and things like that … but we don’t want him off the field, you know what I mean?” Tomsula said. “Yeah, we’re looking at those things. We’re looking at monitoring reps.”
Bowman and the 49ers defenders didn’t play many snaps in the first two games – 54 and 56. But they’ve been on the field quite a bit in the last three games: 74 snaps against the Cardinals, 73 vs. the Packers and 79 Sunday against the Giants.
Bowman clearly is not back to full speed, especially when dropping into coverage and moving side to side. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said he noticed that while studying for his Sunday opponent.
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“I think laterally and some of the man-coverage-type things – which he’s not in a ton of positions to be in – some of that stuff I think you might be able to see that he’s coming back a little bit,” Flacco said. “But as far as being a leader over there and coming downhill and being able to tackle and things like that – straight-line things – I think he’s himself, and he’s still playing at a high level.”
The scouting service Pro Football Focus ranks Bowman 14th of 51 inside linebackers. He has a 5.2 grade against the run but a minus-5 grade in coverage. Teammate Michael Wilhoite ranks 44th with a minus-3 grade against the run and a minus-5.3 grade against the pass.
The 49ers last week traded for an inside linebacker, Gerald Hodges, who was inactive for the Giants game. Tomsula said he liked the way Hodges has picked up the 49ers’ defensive system and said that the newcomer has made a good first impression.
Could Hodges be part of a rotation at inside linebacker? Tomsula said Hodges was brought in because the 49ers have liked him since the 2013 draft.
“In terms of Bowman, I’m a Bow fan, a Bow guy,” he said. “Bow plays a lot of good football. And I’m excited about Bow.”
Hyde hurting – Running back Carlos Hyde missed Wednesday’s practice with a foot injury. Tomsula did not mention Hyde in his pre-practice injury report.
Hyde was seen walking without a limp and working on an exercise cycle at the start of practice – indications he is not seriously injured.
Hyde rushed for 93 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown in Sunday’s loss to the Giants. He’s seventh in the NFL in rushing yards and is on pace for 1,200 for the season.
Like last week, starting offensive linemen Alex Boone (shoulder) and Joe Staley (knee) sat out Wednesday’s practice. Both played – and played well – in Sunday’s loss.
Also missing practice were Reggie Bush (calf), who aggravated the injury that cost him 2 1/2 games at the start of the season, and linebacker Ahmad Brooks, whose sister’s funeral was Wednesday. Brooks could return to the team as early as Thursday.
For the Ravens, receiver Steve Smith Sr. practiced on a limited basis after missing the past 1 1/2 games with a back injury.