Arik Armstead looking forward to playing aggressive style on 49ers' D-line


Arik Armstead looking forward to playing aggressive style on 49ers' D-line

Arik Armstead enters his fifth NFL season finally secure in the knowledge that not only he knows where he fits best along the 49ers’ defensive line, but his coaches also have a handle on his role.

“It’s kind of unfortunate with injuries early in my career, and new coaches coming in, we have this guy who can do X, Y and Z, but he hasn’t been on the field to go through a whole season to lock down a position,” Armstead said on the 49ers Insider Podcast.

“But I think now having a whole year, having a coaching staff for three years now, playing in the same scheme, I think my coaches know me a lot better. They know what I can do and they know how to use me.”

Armstead figures to line up at “big end” in the 49ers’ base defense. He is best-suited for playing the five-technique, lining up on the outside shoulder of an opposing offensive lineman or in the “wide nine,” in which he moves to the outside of the tight end.

“And on third down I’m an inside, dominant pass-rusher rushing against guards,” Armstead said. “That’s kind of the game plan they have for me.”

Armstead figures to benefit from the teachings of new defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, whom the 49ers hired shortly after the end of the season when the Miami Dolphins fired coach Adam Gase and did not retain most of his coaching staff.

“There are read defenses and there are attacking defenses,” Armstead said. “He really wants us to attack and get off the ball and establish a new line of scrimmage and be violent and physical out there and kind of wreak havoc. So that’s the mentality that he’s preaching and how he wants us to play.”

After struggling with shoulder and hand injuries in 2016 and ’17 that limited him to just 14 games and 10 starts in those two seasons, Armstead started all 16 games last season. He was constantly moved around on the defensive line in his first three NFL seasons.

"Yeah, I definitely felt that frustration, being moved around,” Armstead said.

“As a D-lineman, you’re moved around a lot. I think I’m versatile, so I think when there’s much expected out of you, much is required.”

With more of a defined role last season, Armstead recorded a career-best 48 tackles and three sacks. He proved to be a dominant defender against the run, and has the potential to break out as a pass-rusher. The 49ers picked up his fifth-year option, paying him more than $9 million for the upcoming season.

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DeForest Buckner recorded 12 sacks last season, and the 49ers acquired outside pass rusher Dee Ford in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs. The 49ers are likely to use the No. 2 overall draft pick to select another top pass-rush threat.

“I’m going to be productive when I’m on the field and get pressure and get sacks and do my job,” Armstead said. “It’s going to make it a lot easier having a lot of talent around me.”

NFL preview 2019: Five bold predictions for 49ers' upcoming season

NFL preview 2019: Five bold predictions for 49ers' upcoming season

It's about that time, folks. 

Football is back as the 49ers open training camp on Friday, July 26, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. And expectations are high. 

After two straight disappointing seasons, coach Kyle Shanahan enters Year 3 with his most talented roster. Could the 49ers go from the No. 2 pick to the playoffs in the same year? 

Crazier things have happened. 

Here are five bold predictions for the 49ers this season as training camp is set to start. 

Click for five bold predictions for 49ers' 2019 season

49ers training camp questions: Who will win backup quarterback job?

49ers training camp questions: Who will win backup quarterback job?

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan will face a lot of questions, and much will be written and said about one competition in particular during training camp.

But if things go as the 49ers hope, the result of this training camp battle will have no impact on the season as the winner will not step on the field for a meaningful snap after the exhibition season.

Nick Mullens was more impressive than C.J. Beathard last season, but they will open training camp this week with an equal chance at winning the backup quarterback role.

The competition for the 49ers' backup quarterback job probably will not be settled until the final cuts before the start of the regular season. The organization must also determine whether the loser of the battle will remain on the team's 53-man roster or end up on the waiver wire.

Mullens had a historically impressive eight-start opening to his NFL career last season. But he opens camp on equal footing with Beathard for the right to serve as the 49ers' No. 2 quarterback behind starter Jimmy Garoppolo.

“I know both of them so well because we’ve been here two years with them and we’ve gotten a chance now to see both of them in practice and both of them in games,” Shanahan said.

Mullens piled up big passing yards after taking over for Beathard at the midseason point, averaging 284.6 yards passing per game. In fact, Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton are the only players to throw for more yards in their first eight starts. The Southern Mississippi product compiled a respectable 90.9 passer rating while putting up big numbers after taking over for Beathard prior to the 49ers’ Week 9 game against the Raiders.

And Shanahan seems to be pleased with both players, based on what he witnessed during the nine-week offseason program.

They arrived at this point through different modes of transportation.

Beathard was a third-round draft pick in 2017. The 49ers signed Mullens immediately following that same draft as an undrafted rookie. Mullens was among the final cuts before the beginning of the ’17 and ’18 seasons. After he cleared waivers both years, Mullens was immediately signed back to the 49ers’ practice squad.

Beathard has made 10 NFL starts over his first two seasons in the league. He's proven his toughness, but he has to do a much better job of getting the ball out quicker and avoiding hits. Beathard took one sack for every 10.4 dropbacks. At the time Mullens replaced him in the Week 9 game against the Raiders, Beathard needed a break mentally and physically. In two seasons, Beathard has thrown 12 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions.

Mullens might not have all the physical attributes, but he knows the system as well as anyone and does not back down from a challenge. Statistically, Mullens was better last season. He averaged 8.3 yards per attempt while completing 64.2 percent of his pass attempts. Beathard averaged 7.4 yards per attempt and completed slightly above 60 percent of his passes.

[RELATED: New D-line coach Kocurek's craziness resonating with 49ers]

The big question about Mullens is his ability to connect on the deep ball, which is a major component of Shanahan's offensive blueprint.