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Arik Armstead's run defense as good as it gets, says Kyle Shanahan

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Arik Armstead's run defense as good as it gets, says Kyle Shanahan

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers in April picked up the fifth-year option on defensive end Arik Armstead for the 2019 season.

But his one-year, $9.046 million salary does not become guaranteed until March.

Armstead, a first-round draft pick in 2015, has three sacks while starting all 13 games at defensive end. But he appears to be earning his money in the run game, where coach Kyle Shanahan places him among the NFL’s elite.

“I’m extremely happy,” Shanahan said on "49ers Game Plan," which airs Saturday at 7 p.m. on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3).

“He’s as hard as anyone there is to go against. I’ve seen him practice every day. He’s a pain for us to go against every day in training camp. I see it on Sunday, also.”

Armstead rates as the NFL’s No. 3 edge defender against the run, according to Pro Football Focus’ grading system. Only Jacksonville’s Calais Campbell and Houston’s Jadeveon Clowney rank ahead of Armstead.

At 6-foot-7, 292 pounds, Armstead has 40 tackles and six tackles for loss, ranking second on the 49ers among defensive linemen behind DeForest Buckner. Linebacker Fred Warner was asked if Armstead can manhandle offensive linemen.

“He can and he does,” Warner said. “He’s a big dude, and he uses his size and his strength to his advantage. He makes some plays, like, ‘Oooh.’ He makes plays that jump off the tape. That’s been big for us up front.”

The 49ers rank 12th in the NFL in run defense, allowing 107.8 yards per game. The opposition is averaging 4.1 yards per rushing attempt, which ranks 10th-best in the league.

Still, the 49ers have a decision to make in the offseason with Armstead, even if it appears obvious the coaching staff will lobby for Armstead's return.

[RELATED: 49ers snap count: Looking to the future, going younger on defense]

Rookie defensive linemen Kentavius Street, who was cleared this week to practice after sustaining a torn ACL before the draft, and Jullian Taylor also play the “big end” position.

But while the $9.046 million devoted to Armstead is large, the 49ers are expected to have more than $65 million in cap space next season even with Armstead’s salary on the books.

“We’d love sacks, of course. I know he would; I would; fans would. But that doesn’t always happen,” Shanahan said. “We need four guys rushing great together. I know Arik can get better in that area, but he also has done some good things in the pass rush.

"Just collectively, I think we can get better. But you ask me about the run game, Arik is as good as anyone I’ve seen right now.”

How 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo grades 2019 season that fell just short

How 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo grades 2019 season that fell just short

Everyone has an opinion about Jimmy Garoppolo’s first full season as an NFL starter.

On Monday, for the first time since the 49ers’ bitter Super Bowl LIV loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Garoppolo spoke publicly about how he thought he performed in 2019.

“I thought it was a productive year,” Garoppolo said on a video call with Bay Area reporters. “Obviously, it didn’t finish the way we wanted it to. But I think there were a lot of things that went well for us.”

Garoppolo had just 10 NFL starts in his first five seasons. He played in just three games in 2018 due to a torn ACL. Last year, he started all 16 regular-season games and posted one of the better individual seasons from a quarterback in 49ers history.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Garoppolo ranked third in 49ers history with a 69.1 completion percentage. That accuracy also enabled his receivers to post big yards-after-the-catch numbers. Garoppolo threw for 3,978 yards, ranking fourth in franchise history.

“The thing I always take pride in is being an accurate quarterback,” Garoppolo said. “The more accurate you are, the more yards after the catch your guys can go get for you. So in our offense, it’s putting the ball in the right spot, putting it in the right timing of the play and it’s little things like that that go a long way in our offense.

“I was pretty happy with everything, how it went. Like I said, we just want the last game of the season to turn out a little differently.”

Coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch discussed the possibility of pursuing Tom Brady as a free agent this offseason before opting to remain committed to Garoppolo, who turns 29 on Nov. 2.

[RELATEDJohn Lynch calls Jimmy G's physical skills 'elite']

Garoppolo believes, as do Shanahan and Lynch, that he has room to grow as he gains experience. One area where Garoppolo can improve is in taking care of the ball. He threw 16 interceptions in 19 games, including the postseason.

“Having my first full season under my belt, coming off the ACL and everything that went into that season, it will only help me going forward,” Garoppolo said. “I think in terms of being a quarterback, I still have a long way to go. I’m still relatively young for a quarterback, just in terms of playing time.

“As a quarterback, you got to get out there and get the reps, play, get in the live action like that. I think having a full season under my belt will help me going forward.”

How 49ers fans acted toward NFL analyst Adam Rank since 3-13 prediction

How 49ers fans acted toward NFL analyst Adam Rank since 3-13 prediction

It was an idiotic pick, according to himself.

Before the 2019 season began, NFL Network analyst Adam Rank predicted the 49ers would have a 3-13 record. That didn’t happen, of course, as they went 13-3 and found their way to Super Bowl LIV in Miami.

The 49ers fans who got wind of this let Rank have it on social media.

But how have 49ers fans been since then? Maybe not as bad as we thought.

“They’ve been great,” Rank said on the NBC Sports Bay Area’s Balk Talk podcast. “Right off the bat, they’ve been super cool.”

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

So why did Rank choose that ghastly record? Jimmy Garoppolo was coming off of an ACL injury, for starters, and the 49ers secondary was coming off a season where they couldn't force takeaways.

“The defensive secondary had no interceptions -- or, I think maybe it was two interceptions, but the cornerbacks had no interceptions for an entire season,” Rank said. “Richard Sherman, you know, had not been playing well, arriving from Seattle … “

Rank also wasn’t sure how 49ers newly-drafted defensive end Nick Bosa would do. He can’t predict the future. He couldn’t anticipate a Defensive Rookie of the Year honor or an 89.8 grade on Pro Football Focus after a nine sack, 47 tackle, 25 QB-hit season.

How was he to know that?

[RELATED: Rank admits he's an 'idiot' for 49ers prediction]

Don’t worry friends, Rank had his reasons. And he has more than made up for it, predicting the 49ers to finish with a 12-4 record in the 2020 season.

He talks about that, and more on the latest episode of Balk Talk. And wait until you hear about the time Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout asked him for fantasy football advice.