With OTA’s kicking off today, there will be plenty of eyes on all of the San Francisco 49ers latest acquisitions. From the speedy Kwon Alexander, to the technical Nick Bosa, the team has plenty of options. The players that were on the roster last year are equally as interesting. One of those players is Arik Armstead—who the team reportedly put on the trading block during the NFL Draft, and what he’ll be able to contribute in 2019.
After Week 3 of last year, Armstead never played more than 40 snaps. If you’re wondering where he played he lined up just about everywhere imaginable. More often than not, he lined up on the edge last year. 53% of the time Armstead lined up on the edge. From Week 12 on, Armstead combined to finish the season with a total of five sacks, hits, and hurries. Tough to entirely fault Armstead for his usage. Because he was one of the top options on the team to play on the edge doesn’t mean that’s what Armstead is suited for. With pure edge rushers on the team now, it’ll be interesting to see what Armstead’s role will be.
Experience: 4 accrued seasons
The 49ers exercised Armstead’s fifth-year option for 2019, with a salary of $9,046,000. All of that is guaranteed. This is the last year of Armstead’s contract.
Why he might improve in 2019
If Armstead is going to be productive, it’s going to be in 2019. In a contract year with the best defensive front, he’s played on in his life. The table is set for a fourth player to have success. Why not Armstead? With more athletes on the defensive line, I can see defensive coordinator Robert Saleh using more stunts and getting the line on the move more. Armstead has the length to be disruptive and perhaps playing on the inside being able to out quick interior linemen is the key to success.
Nick Bosa is so good off stunts that Armstead should be able to have a couple of free runs at the quarterback. Bosa will get a good chunk of the offensive lineman, freeing up the other defender running the stunt. Little things like that matter and Armstead can be the beneficiary. Armstead can make an impact well beyond the box score. We know he is a terrific run defender. If he’s able to use some of that length and strength to push the pocket, and give quarterbacks nowhere to step up, then that’s an improvement.
Why he might regress in 2019
Armstead is a lock to make the roster. It’s also a safe assumption he’s going to be a part of the 49ers plans this year on defense. He played 56% of the snaps last year. Even with Bosa and Dee Ford, there will be plenty of snaps to go around for another player. My guess is Armstead plays somewhere between 40-50% for the 49ers this year. Less could undoubtedly mean more.
The reason Armstead could regress in 2019 is that the team can’t find a home for him on the defensive line. Rushing on the edge didn’t work out, even as a sub. Rushing inside next to Deforest Buckner didn’t lead to more wins. If these things aren’t happening, this will be the last year we see Armstead in a Niners jersey. Armstead had zero batted passes last year. If he’s going to play more inside, that number needs to change. If Armstead doesn’t find another way to impact the game as a pass-rusher, then this will be his final chance.