With DeForest Buckner gone to the Indianapolis Colts with a new $85 million contract in his pocket, Arik Armstead had to grow into a leadership role this season for the 49ers. But even he couldn't see this kind of start to San Francisco's season happening.
The injury-riddled 49ers are just 2-3 through their first five games after falling short in Super Bowl LIV last season. Armstead, who now is in his sixth season and turns 27 years old in November, has expanded his role as a leader of the defensive line and still believes in this team despite the gauntlet of a scary schedule they're about to run into.
"My leadership style is, for one, to lead by example in how I carry myself, my morals and how I play on the field," Armstead said Wednesday on 95.7 The Game's "Damon, Ratto & Kolsky" show. "[I'm] definitely being more vocal in terms of things I see, helping guys out, trying to teach guys some of the tricks to the trade and things I know out there. And keeping us together out there, whether things are going good or bad, being that positive voice for us.
"All the goals and things we want to accomplish are still attainable this year. We're just gonna have to grind, and get after it and attack each day."
This isn't the defensive line that the 49ers expected to have this season. They expected to see Nick Bosa turn into a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. They expected a healthy Dee Ford to be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. They even expected Solomon Thomas to contribute more and prove himself in a contract year.
Injuries have derailed the season for all three of those players. Bosa and Thomas are out for the season after undergoing season-ending knee surgeries, and Ford has played just one game while dealing with neck and back issues.
Armstead still has been solid thus far, though. The defensive end has 1.5 sacks, nine QB hits and an 80.0 Pro Football Focus grade. In Armstead's mind, however, there's no excuse for the 49ers to have only 10 sacks as a team through five games, even with Bosa on the shelf.
"There's no missing ingredient," Armstead said. "We just gotta get him down. I'm proud of the way the guys are playing, especially guys who had to step in and fill some roles with missing key guys. And guys are playing more than they anticipated this year, which is great. It brings opportunity. We just gotta keep going.
"Keep scratching, keep clawing, keep playing hard, keep doing our job and try to be the reason why we win or we turn this corner. ... I'm excited about the challenge, and I know the guys are, too."
Armstead and the rest of the 49ers have a big challenge ahead this week as they face the 4-1 Los Angeles Rams on Sunday at Levi's Stadium.