• Bret Rumbeck

Fact vs. Fiction: Dispelling the Myths Around Arik Armstead

Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann

San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Arik Armstead is an excellent football player.

There are no myths, no ‘what-ifs’, no questions about his game.

No, good sir, Armstead wasn’t playing well because he was in a contract year.

The only myths and fiction surrounding Armstead are the so-called journalists who claim he’s not reaching his football ceiling. These, Gentle Reader, are irrational arguments written without substance or fact and easily debunked as a fairy tale.

Early Monday, the 49ers announced that Armstead signed a 5-year extension, reportedly worth $85 million and $45.85 million in guaranteed money.

If anyone still doubts what Armstead brings to the field, I present to you a handful of film facts from the previous season.

Week 2 - 1st Quarter: 1st and 10 at the CIN 12 (14:54)

One of the many elements of the 49ers’ born-again hardcore defense was its ability to show up and dominate a game. Armstead was one of those players who showed up early to announce his presence with authority.

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh called a four-man ‘over’ front with Armstead aligned wide on the open side of the formation. Defensive tackle D.J. Jones was in a 2i position, with the assignment to shoot the opposite A-gap. The inside stunt Jones and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner executed allowed Armstead to be one-on-one with Bengals’ tackle Andre Smith.

At the snap, fans across the nation witnessed was an unstoppable force exposing all the flaws of one of the NFL’s worst offensive tackles.

Maybe Armstead’s inside track confused Smith, but it didn’t matter. Armstead was able to keep Smith’s hands off his body and blew by him with an inside rip.

As you can see from the film, Armstead’s move put Smith in an awkward position: a bent upper body, no lower base, and standing on one leg. He was in no place to keep Armstead away from quarterback Andy Dalton.

Week 3 - 2nd Quarter: 1st and 10 at the PIT 25 (6:45)

If 2019 taught us anything about Saleh’s defense, it is that it needed two talented edge defenders to control the line of scrimmage. Along with rookie Nick Bosa and veteran Dee Ford, Armstead continues to prove to be a quality edge defender.

Bosa showed us that pure brutality and athleticism is one way to play the edge. Armstead, however, can make a huge impact and help his teammate make a stop.

In this play, Armstead’s ability to control the edge of the line of scrimmage allowed linebacker Kwon Alexander to track down running back James Conner and make a tackle for loss.

Not only did Armstead provide an assist on the play, but he was also able to push away from guard David DeCastro and help chase down Conner.

Week 6 - 3rd Quarter: 2nd and 18 at the LAR 7 (4:13)

We watched Bosa start on one side of the line and chase down an opponent on the opposite side of the field last season - but Armstead made a few as well.

On the prior play, defensive lineman Solomon Thomas sacked Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff for an 8-yard loss. Rams head coach Sean McVay called a run play to the left to try and gain a bit of space from the goal line.

Usually, the offense leaves the edge defender on the other side of the line of scrimmage unblocked when executing a zone run. It’s a gamble, but the offense is betting the edge defender will not make a play on the other side of the line.

This time, the odds were not in the Rams’ favor.

Armstead shot right through a weak block and straight down the line to hold running back Malcolm Brown to a one-yard gain.

On the next play, Armstead and Bosa completely collapsed the Rams’ tackles, giving Goff no room to make a throw.

Week 8 – 2nd Quarter: 3rd and 5 at the CAR 42 (4:05)

Saleh had the 49ers’ defense align with seven men in the box, with a threat of Alexander and linebacker Fred Warner shooting through the A-gaps.

As usual, Saleh didn’t need to bring six or seven men to disrupt a play; just four 49ers were enough to collapse the Panthers’ line.

At the snap, Alexander, Warner, and strong safety Jaquiski Tartt dropped into coverage. Armstead targeted right guard Trai Turner, extended his arms on Turner, and then politely moved him aside to sack quarterback Kyle Allen.

If there’s any shred of doubt in your mind that Armstead cannot dominate the trenches and lead the 49ers’ defense this season, then I’d encourage you to watch his last two seasons.

Facts are always in film, not in uneducated guesses based on feelings.

Armstead deserves every penny in his new contract and already has me looking forward to watching the 49ers play defense this fall.

All images courtesy of NFL.com.

All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless noted.

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