49ers roster: Arik Armstead a case study why stats don’t tell whole story

Arik Armstead #91 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Arik Armstead #91 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The sacks and tackles aren’t piling up for 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead. But he’s quietly putting together his best season as a pro.

San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Arik Armstead is having his best season since being the No. 17 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft out of Oregon.

OK, so the stat geeks and box-score pushers will disagree, likely pointing out how Armstead’s lone sack in 2021 is in stark contrast to the career-high 10 sacks he registered two years ago. And while it’s fair to question whether the Niners should have committed to Armstead’s former teammate, now-Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, back in 2020, it shouldn’t change the notion Armstead is having a phenomenal year for San Francisco in 2021.

Even if the numbers aren’t showing why.

Again, the traditional stats won’t show much, and it’s probably going to be yet another year where the 49ers aren’t rewarded with an Armstead Pro Bowl selection, as the box scores are typical influencers there.

Arik Armstead 2021 Games Table
TackTackTackTackTackDef.Def.ST SST S
2021-09-121SFO@DETW 41-33*0.0101016065%1342%
2021-09-192SFO@PHIW 17-11*0.0022003967%524%
2021-09-263SFOGNBL 28-30*1.0101114876%1037%
2021-10-034SFOSEAL 21-28*0.0134003868%826%
2021-10-105SFO@ARIL 10-17*0.0022004269%632%

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
Generated 10/12/2021.

Instead, players like EDGE Nick Bosa, who has five sacks through five games, are going to get the bulk of attention and credit.

But in many ways, Armstead is doing the dirty work to help others like Bosa find success.

Arik Armstead is helping 49ers in other ways this season

Armstead is still playing the bulk of his snaps on the outside, usually on the weak side of the formation in base downs, 162 of 227 total snaps to be exact.

When Bosa is joined by fellow EDGE Dee Ford, however, Armstead has moved inside enough to lock up opponents’ interior blockers, allowing the edge rush to have more frequent one-on-one matchups. While the sack totals will usually come from there, Armstead’s presence has meant a lot to Bosa’s success this season.

Bosa, not surprisingly, leads the Niners with 19 quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus, yet Armstead is right behind him with 18. While it would always be nice to see Armstead turn some of those pressures into sacks, there also have been occurrences where Armstead created havoc within the pocket, aiding Bosa in the process.

Like the second of these two sacks in the video below:

During San Francisco’s Week 5 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, Armstead was again a wrecking ball, drawing holding calls, one of which should have been called a safety because it occurred in the end zone.

Frustrating, sure. But it does help illustrate the point of how effective Armstead has been this season.

But the bigger kicker, perhaps, is PFF actually listing Armstead as the 49ers’ No. 1-ranked defender through five weeks, giving him an 89.4 overall grade on the season, two-tenths of a point higher than Bosa.

Read More: Ranking 49ers’ 10 best players after one quarter of 2021 season

Yet Bosa’s sack totals surely make him the higher-profile player.

True, PFF grades aren’t the end-all, be-all here. However, Armstead is still proving to be a difference-maker on the field even though the traditional stats aren’t necessarily going his way.

Without him on the field, it would be safe to say the Niners defensive line wouldn’t be anywhere near as potent as it has been this season.

Considering San Francisco’s defensive weaknesses elsewhere, it’s certainly a bonus to have Armstead doing what he’s doing.

Next. 5 Niners who stood out in Week 5 loss to Cardinals. dark