Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

49ers’ Robert Saleh ‘still very pleased’ with Arik Armstead, explains his drop in production

Dec 10, 2020 at 2:50 PM--

Arik Armstead had a career season in 2019. He led all San Francisco 49ers defenders with 10 regular-season sacks and then added two more in the playoffs. The team rewarded Armstead with a five-year, $85 million deal.

2020 has been a different story. Armstead has just 1.5 sacks through 12 games.

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh spoke with reporters on Thursday and was asked why his production has seen such a significant drop. It sounds like, in the coach's mind, a lot of it has to do with the losses the team has suffered along the defensive front, leaving the defensive lineman with fewer one-on-ones.

"As far as the sack reduction, one, obviously, it comes with opportunity," Saleh explained. "You've got to win your one-on-ones. But he's also not getting as many one-on-one opportunities as he had a year ago, and it's just when teams double him, other people have to step up and help around him. And there are times (when that happens). Kerry Hyder's done a nice job. (Javon) Kinlaw's getting a lot better. Dion Jordan, he's getting better every week. They're grinding, and I can say more about D.J. Jones and Kevin Givens, all the different guys who have been stepping up.

"Arik's leadership and all that stuff, I've never judged a player by his sack production, and (judged) more whether or not he's disrupting plays. What is he doing on the field? How is he affecting the game? And our run-game production is directly correlated to Arik Armstead and what we've been able to do in the run game. And being able to stop the run is a direct correlation to his play in those roles.

"Obviously, he would love more production with regards to sacks and all that, but we're still very pleased with how he's been able to play. His mindset, his effort, and all that stuff is all still there, so it will come. You've just got to keep grinding, and opportunities, when they do arise, you've just got to take advantage of it."

The 49ers made Armstead the No. 17 overall pick in 2015. He is in his sixth season with the team. The defender also spoke with reporters on Thursday and was asked about his inability to reach opposing quarterbacks on a more consistent basis.

"Personally, I wanted to be more productive and make more plays and help my team in more ways," Armstead said. "... In terms of getting sacks, there's various things that go into that. Game situations, situations that arise, and opportunities that arise throughout a game to get a sack or be in a position to get that stat, that's a game-by-game basis, depending on how games go.

"Obviously, last year, we had a plethora of opportunities to get after the quarterback, playing with leads, playing in certain situations where you're just going out there and rushing and getting after it. Things haven't really been that way this year, and we're finding ways to keep playing, and keep getting better, and grow as a unit, as a D-line, and as a defense, and as a team."

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