Niners Live, with its unique and fresh-to-death style and flavor gives fans insight on what could have been an under the radar signing prior to the offseason: Mr. Ray-Ray Armstrong, come on down and let’s see what you bring to the table.
The 49ers decided to lock up linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong to a two-year deal in 2016 before there was any confusion about his security in San Francisco with all the new changes coming abroad. Some may have asked, why re-sign sugar Ray-Ray? It’s quite the no-brainer, actually, when you break down his game, attributes and skill set, but before we do that, let us share with you how we got here Niners Live style….
Ray Ray Armstrong went undrafted in 2013 from Miami, FL and signed with the St. Louis Rams where he appeared in 20 games before being waived by the team on Oct 6, 2014. He was then claimed by the Oakland Raiders the very next day and appeared in 11 games for the Raiders.
Raider statistics 2015, the Recap:
Armstrong played in the first ten games starting two of the contests for the Raiders, registering 21 tackles as well as adding five tackles on special teams and one sack before being waived on Nov. 24, 2015 (NFL.com).
Before being waived, Armstrong lost his starting job after the first two games of the season while connected to an investigation for taunting a police dog and a third-degree felony. Armstrong later was cleared of all charges (Bill Williamson ESPN Staff Writer).
Armstrong, standing at 6′-3″ 220 lbs, was claimed off waivers by the 49ers on Nov. 25, 2015. Armstrong appeared in five games for the 49ers, recording three special team tackles, and in the offseason, signed a one-year contract extension through the 2016 season (team’s website).
What Ray-Ray brings to the table:
Armstrong predominantly played at weak side (WIL) linebacker (away from the tight end) lined up next to NaVorrow Bowman last year in the 49ers defense; he has the physical attributes, football IQ and skill set to also play the same WIL linebacker in the 4-3 scheme Robert Saleh is predicted to implement in San Francisco.
With a clean bill of health and a new, more aggressive and attacking 4-3 defense, Armstrong can possibly be a staple in the new-look defense. What qualifies him to potentially be so effective one may ask? Well here’s the answer. The better WIL linebackers need to have the speed, vision, ball skills, aggression, tackling ability and coverage skill to play safety. But they also need the size, strength, and physicality to play close to the line of scrimmage as a linebacker and take on the blocks of centers, guards, tackles and tight ends to help in run support. Well, you know what player on this defense has played both positions and even started at the safety position in college? Yep, you guessed it. None other than Ray-Ray Armstrong.
San Francisco 49ers 2016 stats:
Two games in, Armstrong had already accumulated seven tackles with one interception, a fumble recovery and one assist before suffering a chest injury against the Carolina Panthers in week two. Before that point, Armstrong lined up next to Pro Bowler Navarro Bowman and showed exceptional skills at middle linebacker with run and pass techniques. You also saw flashes all over the field by Ray-Ray mixed with athleticism, speed, agility, and passion. While he may not be your prototypical inside linebacker (ILB), what he is, is a very talented football player and athlete that can be a real impact player in any scheme when healthy ala ball-hawking potential. If you doubt sugar Ray-Ray’s abilities, look no further than the video down below:
Play the run. He can do it. Drop into coverage. He can do it. Rush the passer; yep he can do it. In the event you’re looking for some proof of just how dominant he can be, and the impact he can have, look no further than the defensive highlights from the 2016 week one game against the Rams. In the words of Visa, “he was everywhere you want to be” for the Rams offensive players when they were looking for daylight. Armstrong produced four solo total tackles, one assist, one tackle for loss, and an interception. He played an essential role in a defensively dominating performance leading to a 28-0 win over the Rams. Even if he didn’t ‘make the play or tackle’, he was there, and was always around the ball.
I’ll close with this:
Contrary to popular belief, first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and this 49ers defense isn’t in as bad shape going into the season as it appears. With the healthy return of NaVorrow Bowman and Ray-Ray Armstrong, this defense is another strong side linebacker (SAM) away from having one of the best linebacker corps in the league. Plug and play players that can excel in just about any scheme like Ray-Ray are hard to find. His smarts, big play ability against both the pass (in coverage) and in run support contribute to his high stock/value in this 49ers defense.
Note this: Ray-Ray Armstrong, even though it was a small sample size in 2016, demonstrated he had the eye to find his way to the football, whether run or pass, and execute the play to the whistle and after the whistle. Being that Armstrong’s original position in college was safety, he possesses immaculate talents and instincts in the pass coverage game coming from the linebacker position, as well as hitting run gaps. Can you see the total package? Hold that thought…. Wait… Do you see it?
I don’t know about you, but I’m super excited to see him fly around the field and make plays along with the rest of this reshuffled and revamped 49ers defense. This player is a mixture of a safety and a linebacker. He knows the game inside and out, recognizes and dissects plays, and possesses the rare passion and ability to provide a spark or make a big play on each and every down. Yeah, that’s just a glimpse at what Ray-Ray Armstrong brings to the table. And at times, he even brings the table with him, “Checkmate.”
On a Niners live side note: Ray-Ray Armstrong is set to enter the 2017 season as the most significant and secure opportunity of his career. Mr. Armstrong will have ample time and the potential to earn a home with the 49ers for his entire career if he can take care of business and stay healthy.
As always, keep your eyes wide open, 49er fans. Niners Live will be watching with you. #eyeswideopen and often imitated but never duplicated… 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 new Staff Writer at Niners Live. Co-Author, Editor NinersLive, Co-Author Jonathan Armstead new Staff Writer at Niners Live.