On the surface, it’s been a disappointing season for San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Arik Armstead. If you’re not getting after the quarterback consistently, then you will be questioned. Armstead is 38th among defensive lineman in total pressures and outside of the top-50 in QB hits and sacks, per PFF. Armstead is being paid to perform like a top-20 pass rusher in the NFL. Through 20 games, that hasn’t happened.
Adding a player like Takk McKinley helps Armstead as it puts him where he should be on passing downs: Inside. Here is a pass rush against the Saints on third down where Arik was lined up as a defensive tackle. This is where he should live on third downs, but injuries have forced the Niners $85 million-man to remain on the edge during obvious passing downs.
That’s as good as it gets. In an ideal world, Nick Bosa or Dee Ford is there to sack the quarterback.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was on KNBR Wednesday to discuss Armstead’s production or lack thereof:
When it comes to production, that’s a big deal, especially with someone like Arik, who has done it and has been here in the past. But our production has been down across the board on D-line. And D-line is a tough position with production. I mean, everyone bases it off sacks and everything like that. When you get sacks, and you get those numbers up, a lot of it has to do with committee, and that’s one reason I think all our guys had good numbers last year.
When you have two studs off the edge, and we had two studs inside, and mixing them up throughout a game, and it’s keeping everybody fresh, everyone gets to eat, and everyone has good numbers. And when you take a bunch of those guys out, especially your two top edge guys after the first game of the year, everyone’s going to hurt, and there’s not going to be as much space, and you’re not going to get to go off on those numbers.
Armstead has played 548 snaps through ten games. Arik played 523 games through ten games in 2019, but he also had a bye week in between and didn’t have to play three games in under two weeks last year. That’s not an excuse. It takes a toll on anyone, but especially a player who is playing in the trenches.
Here’s Shanahan explaining Armstead as a run defender:
Armstead knows that, and he wants to play at a higher level. We want everyone to play at a higher level. But by no means does Armstead’s numbers mean that he’s playing bad football. I mean, Arik defends the run better than anyone we have, and as good as anyone I’ve seen in this league.
Has Armstead played poorly? Not even close. He’s played much better than he’s given credit for, namely against the run. Fans want production, and that’s not unfair to ask. Armstead sees extra help as teams know Arik’s the Niners’ biggest threat.
I’m curious to see how rejuvenated this team looks on both sides of the ball after the bye week. All eyes will be on Armstead, though. If the 49ers are going to make a run, they’ll need their best lineman to play up to his contract.