Editor's note: This is the final part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Jaguars matchups to watch Sunday, 10 a.m., at Wembley Stadium in London.
49ers LB NaVorro Bowman vs. Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew
Tale of the tape
Bowman (53): 6 foot, 242 pounds, fourth season, Penn State
Jones-Drew (32): 5 foot 7, 210 pounds, eighth season, UCLA
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NaVorro Bowman has reached the same level as teammate Patrick Willis. And an argument can be made that he’s even surpassed Willis, who was named to six Pro Bowls in his first six NFL seasons.
Bowman has definitely stepped out from under Willis’ shadow. He is well on his way to a third consecutive All-Pro season. And his worth to the 49ers was proven during the two games Willis was out of the lineup with a groin strain.
Bowman leads the 49ers with 83 tackles on the season – that’s 36 more than Willis. And Bowman has also been effective on blitzes to help a 49ers pass rush compensate for the loss of outside linebacker Aldon Smith.
Together, he and Willis form the best pair of inside linebackers in the NFL.
“We are similar in a lot of ways,” Willis said. “The best thing we have is to stay hungry and work to get better together and as individuals.”
Bowman figures to have another busy day on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars with plenty of opportunities to come face-to-face with running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
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Although he is averaging a career-low 3.1 yards per rushing attempt, Jones-Drew still factors heavily in the Jaguars’ plan. He is also adept in blitz pickup, where he might be assigned on occasion to protect quarterback Chad Henne from Bowman, who had two sacks in the first game the 49ers played without Willis and Aldon Smith.
Jones-Drew, the former De La Salle High star, still offers plenty of challenges for Bowman.
“Obviously the low center of gravity with his height and his build, 220 pounds or more packed into that shorter-type body,” 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “But he runs extremely hard and is very good on contact. He’s a good cutter. He’s a tough guy to play against.
“He’s so different than most running backs that you see. Most running backs that are shorter are quicker and darters, and this guy, he’s big. If he was 6 foot, he’d be 250 pounds.”