49ers give Armstead chance to break mold at pass-rush position

49ers give Armstead chance to break mold at pass-rush position

When asked earlier this offseason about the traits he looks for in the team’s “Leo” pass-rush end position, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh ticked off some names of players he considers the prototypes.

“People who have been attached to this system, you’re looking at Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril, Yannick Ngakoue, Dante Fowler, Vic Beasley,” Saleh said. “People outside of the system, you’d look at Von Miller, Khalil Mack. Back in his heyday, Charles Haley would have been a guy that would have been a Leo.”

The 49ers are currently looking at Arik Armstead, who is listed as 4 inches taller and 32 pounds heavier than any of the current players Saleh mentioned as prototypes at the Leo position.

Although Armstead has recorded just 4.5 sacks in 24 career games, he ranked fourth among 3-4 defensive ends last season in "pass rush productivity," according to Pro Football Focus. Armstead played in just eight games due to a shoulder injury, but he generated 24 quarterback pressures in just 171 pass-rush opportunities.

“He moves well,” Saleh said of Armstead during a press conference Wednesday in Santa Clara. “The concern was that he’s so big and he doesn’t exactly fit the prototype, but he’s so athletic. He’s so long and he’s got a good first step. He just needs to get more comfortable in the things that we’re asking him to do physically.”

“He looks lean. He’s in amazing shape and he looks good out there.”

Former 49ers general manager Trent Baalke selected former Oregon defensive linemen Armstead and DeForest Buckner with the team’s top picks in his final two drafts. Armstead (6 foot 7, 292 pounds) and Buckner (6-7, 300) are currently lining up alongside each other in the 49ers’ new 4-3 scheme. Buckner has been installed at one of the defensive tackle positions.

“We look good coming off the bus,” Saleh said of Armstead and Buckner. “They’re huge. But you can be big and still not be very effective. But those guys are working so hard at kind of transitioning to our style of play. And once they start understanding that, they have the ability to control the line of scrimmage. They’re working hard at it. I’m excited to see them work, for sure.”

Richburg excited about working closely with Garoppolo


Richburg excited about working closely with Garoppolo

New 49ers center Weston Richburg will be joining what he has heard is a good group of offensive linemen, led by six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley, the longest-tenured 49ers player.

Richburg, 26, said he is also looking forward to working closely with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, 26. The 49ers expect the players to be on the field a lot together over the coming seasons. Garoppolo and Richburg both signed five-year contracts through the 2022 season this offseason.

When asked on The 49ers Insider Podcast if the organization’s long-term commitment to Garoppolo had any influence on his decision to come to the Bay Area after four seasons with the New York Giants, Richburg answered, “Doesn’t hurt.”

“You look at of the teams that have a lot of success -- the team he just came from, what I just came from -- there are two quarterbacks on those teams that have been there who have had success who work extremely hard at their craft,” Richburg said. “So I think see that in Jimmy. I’m excited to be a little part of what he does.”

Richburg played out of position at left guard in his rookie season. Over the next two years, he started 31 of 32 games at center, in front of two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Eli Manning. Garoppolo came to the 49ers in an October trade from New England after spending most of his 3 1/2 NFL seasons behind Tom Brady.

Richburg said he expects to develop a good rapport with his quarterback – a must for an offense to function at a high level.

“If it’s bad, I think it can hurt you,” Richburg said of the center-quarterback dynamic. “But if it’s good, it can help.

“I think we’re going to have a good relationship. We’re around the same age. I think we’ll be able to pick each other’s brains, feed off each other, work together. That’s part of the position of center that I like the most is kind of the cerebral part of it and working with a quarterback, getting everything situated, getting everything running.”

Richburg started just four games last season and finished the season on injured reserve with a concussion. He said it was the first concussion he has experienced and is feeling good.

“It was new territory,” Richburg said, “but I’m feeling very good right now. I’m excited. I think got a little more itch to go play football right now since it’s been a little longer for me.”

49ers sign former first-round pick guard


49ers sign former first-round pick guard

The 49ers added some talent in the trenches on Tuesday.

Guard Jonathan Cooper inked a one-year deal, the team announced.

Cooper was originally drafted No. 7 overall by the Cardinals in 2013. After two seasons in Arizona, he spent time with the Patriots, Browns and Cowboys.

Last season, he appeared in 13 games for Dallas.

“Having started 27 games in four NFL seasons, Jonathan brings great experience to the interior of our offensive line. We look forward to him competing for a starting job at guard, while also bringing a veteran presence to our locker room. Jonathan is a welcome addition to our team,” GM John Lynch said in a statement.