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Justin Smith: Chris Borland is going to be special

When November's Rookie of the Month awards were handed out, nobody around here was surprised to see Chris Borland tabbed as November's winner.

Coming off one of the more insane months by any NFL defender, the San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker notched an unreal 72 combined tackles over five starts.

Filling in for the injured Patrick Willis, Borland made his case for a permanent role in the lineup by averaging 11.4 solo tackles (and 14.4 combined) per game while showing on-field instincts beyond his years. The former Wisconsin star is impossible to miss on Game Rewind.

"Borland came in there and done some stuff you really can't teach," 49ers defensive end Justin Smith said this week, per CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco. "I think he's going to be a special player down the road."

Beyond operating as a tackling machine, Borland has used his ball-hawking skills to directly impact two Niners victories. He recovered a fumble in overtime to set up San Francisco's Week 10 win over the Saints before picking off two passes -- including the game-ender -- against the Giants the following week.

His burst of production makes Borland the only player in the past 20 years with 70-plus tackles and two interceptions in a calendar month. He struggled for stretches against the Seahawks on Thanksgiving night, but so did the entire Niners defense.

What we've seen over 387 snaps from Borland has him notched atop our list of draft gems and -- if he keeps up this torrid pace -- very much in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast previews Cowboys-Bears and reacts to Brian Hoyer earning the nod over Johnny Manziel. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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