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John Lynch on Arik Armstead: ‘We expect to have him for the playoffs’

The 49ers defense has taken a hit without Armstead. His playoff numbers are impressive, and his production will be needed

San Francisco 49ers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers have been without defensive tackle Arik Armstead for a month now, as he’s been injured since Week 13.

During this four-game stretch, the 49ers defense ranks 23rd in EPA per play and 16th in success rate. Against the run, where Armstead makes his hay, the Niners are 26th in EPA. So, big plays have been far easier to come by without No. 91 in the middle.

Armstead hosts a podcast called Third & Long. Arik spoke about his potential return on his most recent episode:

“To me, it was a great weekend getting that No. 1 seed. And giving myself a little more time to rest and heal up. It’s been frustrating going through this process and this nagging injury. But I remain blessed and positive. God willing, when the time comes, my team needs me the most for this playoff run. My team needs me the most. You know, that’s when I’m at my best, in the playoffs.

I get to acting a little different in the playoffs. And if you don’t know, you can go check the records. Check the stats of how I do in the playoffs. I’m excited, man. I’m excited about this opportunity.”

Armstead isn’t lying about his production in the playoffs. He has seven sacks, 11 quarterback hits, and five tackles for loss in nine games.

49ers general manager John Lynch joined KNBR Friday morning and echoed Armstead’s comments about returning for the playoffs:

“That’s our hope. The one seed, when you talk about what it means, it means some extra time for a guy like Arik who’s been working through some foot and knee injuries and making a great deal of progress. But this just gives him a little extra time.

And it’s been killing Arik. He wants to be out there for this team, but this extra time just allows him more opportunity to heal up, and Arik’s a big part of what we do. So he’s working hard. We expect to have him for the playoffs. We hope to. I don’t know about ‘expect to’ because you always have to hit these markers, and we’ll turn up the intensity of his training as we get closer. And he’s doing real well.”

The Divisional playoff round will be seven weeks after Armstead’s injury. The depth at defensive tackle is thin as it is. But Armstead’s return will mean players like Javon Kinlaw and Kevin Givens can return as reserves. They’ve been effective in “less is more” roles.

Here’s a look at the defensive tackle rotation with Armstead back in the fold:

Javon Hargrave
Javon Kinlaw
Kevin Givens
Sebastian Joseph-Day

That group gives you a little bit of everything at the position. But make no mistake, the duo of Hargrave and Armstead have caused chaos for opposing offenses. Both players rank No. 10 and 11 in Pro Football Focus’s “win percentage” stat as a pass rusher. The team needs Armstead out there if they will make a Super Bowl run.