The San Francisco 49ers are fresh off a win over the Denver Broncos where they stopped the run with the help of Arik Armstead. He’ll have to do the same against the Seattle Seahawks this week.
Prior to this season, the professional career of San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Arik Armstead has been polarizing, to say the least. A majority of Niners fans, including me, was fuming when San Francisco drafted Armstead in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, especially when two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs right after.
Armstead actually put together a solid rookie season and made the most out of the limited number of snaps that then-defensive coordinator Eric Mangini gave him, earning a strong 78.3 grade from Pro Football Focus in his first year in the league.
And then the training camp reports started. In 2016 and 2017, training camp attendees were raving about how Armstead was straight-up mauling offensive linemen at camp, but the supposed monster performances never translated over to the regular season, as the ex-Oregon Duck had both of these campaigns cut short with early season-ending injuries.
Over the offseason, general manager John Lynch picked up the fifth-year option on Armstead’s contract, which was not well-received by fans since it was easy to label the former first rounder a bust at this point. However, the truth is that the talent has always been there with Armstead, and that major injuries have just plagued his career thus far.
And this season, amid all the losing this team has done, the truth about Armstead has seemingly come out. He is constantly in opposing teams’ backfields and disrupting plays with his mammoth frame (6-foot 8, 290 pounds). His excellent play this season has earned him the third-best Pro Football Focus grade against the run among edge defenders, trailing only elite defensive ends Calais Campbell and Jadeveon Clowney.
Armstead was a major part of the 49ers’ strong effort to stop one of the league’s leading rushers, Phillip Lindsay, derailing the Denver Broncos’ offensive game plan and helping San Francisco get its third win of the season in Week 14.
The Niners are sick of losing to the divisional rival Seattle Seahawks. San Francisco hasn’t beaten Seattle since Dec. 8 of 2013, over five years ago. This week, Armstead will be a crucial determining factor in the 49ers’ ability to end that streak.
The Seahawks offense, under offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, has gone completely old school, with its entire playbook centering around the power-run scheme, complemented by three competent running backs Seattle has in Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny and Mike Davis (yes, the ex-Niner Mike Davis).
Seattle has the highest rushing-play percentage in the league by far, running the ball on 52.29 percent of its plays, a far cry from last year’s 40.62 percent, where the offense leaned on the right arm of quarterback Russell Wilson.
This old-school offense has contributed to much of Seattle’s success, as the team leads the league in rushing by a mile. However, the Denver Broncos are also in the top 10 rushing teams in the league, and the 49ers took that to their advantage and shut it down, forcing quarterback Case Keenum to throw the ball.
Wilson is obviously a better passer than Keenum, but the key to stopping the 2018 Seattle Seahawks is to shut down the run game. The 49ers, unfortunately, did not do that in their first meeting of the year, leading to a bad 43-16 loss, but this week they play Seattle at home with the Faithful helping them out.
Arik Armstead, the team’s best run defender by far, and who should be a big part of this team’s future, will have a lot to do with shutting down the Seahawks’ biggest strength and helping the 49ers end this losing streak.