Niners live takes the time to acknowledge the efforts of a defender that was called upon to step up and step in when needed due to an injury in week one. It took him a few games to settle in, but Ray-Ray Armstrong has put up some solid numbers, and is among the team leaders in tackles through five games.
Mr. Next man up
Ray-Ray Armstrong has shown up, showed out and has fully embraced the “next man up” role. In most cases, “next man up” is commonly used when a team loses a player to injury as almost a cliché. What isn’t as common, is that player stepping in and performing at a high level. From the looks of it, Ray-Ray is here to show that he’s more than just a backup, and is demanding some respect be put on his name.
Through five games, he has racked up 30 tackles, 21 solo, nine assists, one sack, and two interceptions (via ESPN.com). So far, he has the highest defensive run grade (78.1) amongst the linebacking core and has been the spark plug in the middle of the defense. Though he started slowly in his relief of Reuben Foster, initially looking not quite ready, he’s played well recently. He had his breakout performance in week four versus the Arizona Cardinals where he recorded 10 tackles, 8 solo, an interception, and one of the 49ers six sacks on Carson Palmer and in impressive fashion, as he jumped the snap beautifully, as he shot the A gap (as seen in the video). He was in the backfield before Palmer had a chance to finish his drop, as he was dropped like a call of a Sprint customer, for a significant loss.
On Sunday, versus the Indianapolis Colts, Ray-Ray continued his stellar play and played the role of sky thief as he had a clutch interception in the end zone and returned it for 29 yards (as seen in the video). The forced turnover should’ve and would’ve won the game for the 49ers had they been able to score, that is, but unfortunately the interception was all for not as the drive resulted in yet another 49ers punt.
Taking the good with the bad (The bottom line)
Though the 49ers are currently winless with a record of 0-5, the defensive front seven and Ray-Ray have both played some good football. But with the offense yet to find it’s groove and sustain drives, or consistently score points, the performance on defense is easily overlooked. At this point, the improved play of the front seven has yet to result in a 49ers’ win, but it’s good to see guys like Ray-Ray having a good season and making contributions to the turnaround of the defense. It’s truly hard to smile for the 49ers fan base, and seeing as how this 49ers offense is about as dependable as a wet dollar store paper towel, it may be hard to smile for some time. Nonetheless, Ray-Ray has done his part and fully embodied the “next man up” role. Great job Ray-Ray. Next stop, Washington. Go Niners!
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Kevin Mitchell Staff Writer at Niners Live and Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims.