Training Camp Battles; What we Know so far Featuring “the Linebackers”

As you know, training camp is in full go and week one is in the books, and what a week it’s been. Especially for the defense. So sit back, get comfortable, and relive the past week as if you were there, with a heavy dose of Niners Live flavor.


Who’s confirmed, what we know

Ray-Ray Armstrong started camp in impressive fashion as he almost came down with an over the shoulder interception running step-for-step with Joe Williams on a wheel route down the right sideline as seen in this video clip. In addition to making plays in the passing game, Ray-Ray has also shown he, too, can play a part in run support stopping multiple plays in the backfield thus far in camp. Needless to say, Ray-Ray is ready to go, show, and prove his versatility and value.

Important to note: Some veterans were given the day off this past Thursday (via the team’s website).

Ahmad Brooks has had a number of would-be sacks (recorded two Wednesday), further validating his importance to the 49ers defense as discussed in Looking at Ahmad Brooks’ Role in DC Robert Saleh’s 4-3 Under Scheme. It seems Brooks is hell bent on showing everyone “age isn’t nothing but a number.” From the looks of it, doubt drives Brooks, and if his play thus far is driven by it, the more the better because he’ll continue to remove it.

Reuben Foster has been lights out or as often said, “Well worth the price of admission” since making his debut in 49ers camp. He’s been flying around the field, making plays both against the pass and the run and he’s made impressive run stops as well.  So far, finding the ball before it’s delivered to the intended receivers has come easy for Foster, recording four interceptions and three (being pick sixes as seen in the video clip) since the start of camp.

Foster was named MVP on Sunday and has received high praise from players and coaches alike. Jumping routes and grabbing tipped passes before they fall to the ground, Foster seems to be a football magnet. His energy, passion, and instincts are off the charts and look to propel him up the depth chart as camp goes on. Third team defense or not, his value and dominance is clear. Keep your head on swivel first and second team defenders, here comes Reuben.

The BOLO (Be on the lookout) list

Eli Harold, Dakoda Watson, Malcolm Smith, NaVorro Bowman, Brock Coyle

While the vets have made modest plays such pass break ups and tackles for loss, but no splash plays just yet. This doesn’t mean they won’t have any because it’s still early in camp, not to mention you can never count out vets, especially Bowman. When the time comes, they’ll be ready and get it done. But it would be very encouraging to see their names come off the BOLO list. For this specific reason, Niners Live presented you with in Training Camp Battles. “Who wants it more?” Part 2. Featuring the LB’S to help monitor the progress of the deep group of linebackers. So far, some have shown they want it more and others have yet to do so. On the bright side, there’s plenty camp left and like the say, better late than never.

Worth talking about

It’s still early and there’s plenty of questions left to be answered on defense, but one thing is for sure, this linebacker group is arguably the most talented the 49ers have had in some time. As Niners Live discussed in Training Camp Battles. “Who wants it more?” Part 2. Featuring the LB’S, once the dust settles and the chosen few are complete, it’ll be a thing of beauty to watch the combinations they are used in and how they perform as a unit. No way you can’t be excited about what’s to come from this group, especially with the versatility of many of these linebackers.

I’ll leave you with this as an idea of what you may see in terms of personnel groupings at linebacker. In a recent press conference, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said, “When both Ray-Ray Armstrong and Reuben Foster are on the field together, Ray-Ray will be the middle (MIKE) linebacker” (team website). The aforementioned linebackers are the two best coverage linebackers on the 49ers defense, so the nickel package looks very promising, along with the number of other possible linebacker packages that may be employed. Is it football season yet? Go Niners!

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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.comPro Football unless otherwise indicated. Author, Kevin Mitchell Staff Writer at Niners Live and Co-Author, Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims.