After the 49ers lost Solomon Thomas and Nick Bosa in Week 2 to season-ending knee injuries, rookie Javon Kinlaw and veteran Arik Armstead were counted on to pick up some of the production lost in what has been an unrelenting wave of injuries for the team in 2020.
But the talented duo has combined for just 1.5 sacks so far this season, and hasn't stuffed the stat sheet the way many hoped when Bosa and Thomas went down. 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh isn't worried about the lack of tangible production, and remains confident in the two D-linemen. With Kinlaw, Saleh has preached patience from day one.
"It takes time, takes field, takes an understanding for what's happening," Saleh told reporters on Thursday. "Along those lines, when he does get his one-on-ones, he does have to win. He has had some wins. I believe he's, I mean, it's amongst rookies so far this season, I think I read somewhere that he's in the top five with regards to pressures from defensive linemen.
"He's progressing along well and I do believe that once things start to click, and they are, because he's showed up a step late to the party when I think [CB] K'Waun [Williams] had a sack. He had [Philadelphia Eagles QB] Carson [Wentz] in his grasp, Carson Wentz. Carson got away from him. He was in a foot race with [Green Bay Packers QB] Aaron Rogers on Thursday. So, he's had his opportunities and those are things that he's going to learn."
With Armstead, Saleh believes the loss of talents like Bosa and Thomas has created more attention centered on the rangy defender.
"Arik is getting a lot of attention with regards to the way teams are blocking, the way teams slide the front to him and all that stuff," Saleh said. "His one-on-ones are even more limited than what Javon's been able to get. So, on the flip side, when he does get those one-on-ones, he knows it and everyone knows that he's got to win those opportunities. He's got to take advantage of them, but at the same time, that's on us as coaches to find ways to get him more one-on-one opportunities. That's an every week thing."
Armstead has played 71 percent of the 49ers' defensive snaps, while Kinlaw is just behind him with 62 percent.
Interior defensive linemen don't often accumulate a lot of stats, and their contributions often come more from watching tape and analyzing the trenches than from poring over the box score.
It's been a down season for the 49ers in all phases of the game, with injuries playing a major role in that. But Saleh doesn't seem to have much concern about his two best healthy defensive linemen.