“Oh no, not again.” That was the first thought that ran through my head, as the 49ers announced that defensive tackle Arik Armstead will be out with a hamstring injury back on July 31. The oft-injured lineman missed 18 games over the last two seasons and was in real threat for being passed over by a younger player on the depth chart.
Unfair or not, fans have been highly critical of Armstead in the past, not for his on-field ability, but his availability. Fast forward 25 days, the ex-Oregon Duck was back on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium taking first-team snaps on defense.
If you’re box-score scouting, you look at Armstead’s line from Saturday — one tackle — and wonder why he’s even getting defensive snaps at this point. All those doubts should immediately be deleted from existence, as the 24-year old was highly effective on Saturday.
In Armstead’s second defensive snap of the game, he’s matched up against the Colts’ right tackle and forces him back into running back Nyheim Hines. While Armstead over runs Hines, it forces the tailback right into linebacker Fred Warner and lineman DeForest Buckner for no gain on the play.
This next play demonstrates what Armstead needs to do more of in the regular season. The ex-Duck sheds off the Colts’ blocker quickly and wraps up the tailback right at the line of scrimmage, not allowing any yardage. Stopping the run — not rushing the passer — will be Armstead’s No. 1 priority this season and he’s after it already.
Now in an obvious throwing situation, Armstead’s allowed to rush the passer from the outside and beats the Colts’ tackle inside. As a result, Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck is forced to leave the pocket. While Luck has a large gain on the ground, Armstead does his job in rushing the quarterback.
Watching this next play, there’s a 49ers’ fan somewhere — likely in Oregon — that was enthusiastic seeing Armstead push the Colts’ left guard back in Luck’s lap, like a rag doll. Even though he’s returning from injury, the fourth-year lineman shows solid strength in this play.
After one preseason performance, there should be little to no doubt about Armstead’s talent on the field. San Francisco’s front office picked up his fifth-year option, but if he’s able to compile a healthy season in 2018, it can go a long way during contract negotiations.