Niners Live again goes out on a limb and explains: Why the Forty-Niners won’t give up on Arik Armstead just yet, from our unique and different perspective.
Meet Arik Armstead
With the 17th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers selected Arik Armstead, defensive end, University of Oregon. In his three years at Oregon, Armstead accumulated 87 tackles (42 solo), 10.5 tackles for loss (TFL), four sacks, one forced fumble, and two pass defenses.
By the numbers
Armstead led all 3-4 defensive ends in PRP in 2016. Armstead had 21 hurries and three sacks in 168 pass-rush snaps for an NFL-best 11.2 pass-rush productivity rating. He also led the league in 2015 with a 12.3 pass-rush productivity rating (Pro Football Focus, subscription required).
He has shown the potential to be dominant, but has lacked consistent production/play to meet/exceed his potential due to injuries in back-to-back seasons. He’s missed 18 games (eight games due to a shoulder in 2016 and 10 games in 2017 due to a broken hand) in his three NFL seasons with the team. He only played six games in 2017, in which he recorded 16 tackles (eight solo) and one and a half sacks and one pass defense.
When he’s on the field, he shows flashes of being dominant
As seen in this highlight clip from week six of the 2016 season versus the Buffalo Bills, when healthy, Armstead shows the potential quickness off the ball and disruptiveness it takes to make plays; it just hasn’t translated to on-field production consistently.
Injury recap: Per a report by Ian Rapoport, Armstead’s recovery would be 4-6 weeks from his surgery date of October 24, 2017, so he should be a full participant in all team off-season workouts.
I know some fans have reservations about seeing the 49ers moving on from Armstead due to injury and/or lack of production as he’s too big (considered BFN, big for nothing, at one point) not to be more effective than he has been thus far. They may want to hold off on those reservations; at least through the 2018 season. Especially since injuries have limited his opportunities. It seems General Manager John Lynch believes in Armstead’s abilities as he stated the following about Armstead.
“I felt like (Week 6) was his best (game). We had seen glimpses. But he kind of put it all together. We think he’s a fit with what we are and who we are going forward. He’s got a bright future with us” (via team’s website).
Possibly his last time to shine
Armstead is entering the 4th year of his rookie contract that totals a value of $9,842,630 (via spotrac.com). This will be his best and possibly final shot to secure domino (ensure he’s on the team beyond 2018) and prove he’s worth the team picking up his fifth-year option next year. Someone once said, “There is no time like the present.” Well, that couldn’t be truer for Armstead as he needs to have his best season yet.
Defense coordinator Robert Saleh had this to say about Armstead’s toughness and his return from surgery after breaking his hand on October 15, 2017, in a week six match-up versus the Washington Redskins.
“Arik played a quarter and a half with that broken hand and dominated the man in front of him. He’s a tough son of a B. He is. If he could have played with a club, he would have played with a club. If he could play with one hand, he’ll play with one hand. Arik, for the last two weeks, has been playing some very, very good football, he really has.”
After being criticized and having his heart questioned for not attempting to play with a cast/club on his broken hand, Armstead also chimed in to defend himself via Twitter. Though inconsistent, the team felt his absence as a Leo/Edge-Rusher. Once out of the lineup; the team auditioned numerous players trying to compensate for Armstead. Niners Live previously discussed his transition to a 4-3 pass rusher in, Don’t Sleep on Arik Armstead Taking Over as the “LEO, Pass-Rusher.
The time is now
If Armstead can come into the 2018 season healthy, focused, stronger, and improve his film study he should be able to flourish and show the world why he was a first-round pick, especially with the emergence of DeForest Buckner and Sheldon Day. The continued growth of Solomon Thomas along the interior of the defensive line will help also. If he can get back on the field and have a consistent impact, the 49ers will be more inclined to pick up his fifth-year option in 2019. Go Niners!
All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Co-Author, Kevin Mitchell Staff Writer at Niners Live and Co-Author, Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims.