49ers Captain Shares Blueprint on What Makes S.F. Defense So Stout

Arik Armstead

Getty Arik Armstead before the 49ers' September 18, 2022 home game.

Safe to say, Arik Armstead enjoys coming into work between late July to January in Santa Clara.

The veteran defensive lineman and captain has been a mainstay of the San Francisco 49ers defense since his arrival to the league in 2015. He’s played every season in the Bay Area and to this day, is yet to complain about the defensive approach the 49ers use.

But what makes this defense a combination of unique and fun for every defender including for one of the older defenders in Armstead? He explained it to the NFL Network on Monday, May 15.

“We play with a certain style,” Armstead said to both MJ Acosta-Ruiz and guest Ndamukong Suh. “We attack, we get off the ball, we run to the ball, we play with great effort, and it’s really a team effort. We play for one another. We don’t have selfish guys who are out there just trying to get stats, but we’re working together, and we’re going out there to dominate, really.”

Furthermore: “And we’re a talented bunch that works extremely hard, and when we go out there, we lay it all on the line. So I love playing with this group. It’s been a lot of fun going into my ninth year here.”

Armstead Now Getting a Needed Assist Inside Soon

Armstead, as 49er fans know well, is one of the few defenders the Niners trust in placing him at multiple spots on the defensive line. But he’s established himself as a stronghold inside the “B” gap spot as injuries in the interior room have decimated the 49ers, including needing to slide inside for Javon Kinlaw whenever he’s gone down and for adding needing depth in the IDL room.

But another aspect the 49ers have lacked, even in their trench dominance, is having a consistent natural pass rushing defensive tackle next to Armstead and Nick Bosa. Now, the 49ers have added just that in Javon Hargrave.

The prized addition of Hargrave gives the Niners one of the more dominating IDL sack artists from last season with 11 sacks. In the last two seasons, Hargrave has collected 18.5 total sacks.

Now, his addition can give the 49ers up to three pass rushers on early downs in Bosa, Armstead and him while also going with a cat-quick defender in Drake Jackson opposite of Bosa or rolling with a veteran like T.Y. McGill inside (allowing Armstead to move to end) or plugging another veteran in edge Kerry Hyder.

Armstead Details Special Relationship With Integral 49ers Coach

Another reason why Armstead still enjoys a long work day in the Bay Area: the coach who spends his most one-on-one time with in defensive line coach Kris Kocurek.

“Kris, for me, really, his belief in me, and I know that he cares, his passion for what we do,” Armstead shared on the impact of Kocurek. “And playing for a coach who gives you confidence, who believes in you, that goes a long way. I hadn’t had that in a long time. And so that’s what really opened it up for me, going out there and taking the field for somebody who believes in me and wants to see me be successful.”

Armstead added other elements that make Kocurek beloved and relatable to the DLs in the 49ers’ facility.

“I think he allows people to use their skill set. He’s going to bring in guys that can play his style of football, and he’s going to put you in position to be successful,” Armstead said. “We don’t overcomplicate things. We don’t think too much.”

Lastly, Armstead shared what the 49ers’ philosophy is…which is a simple yet aggressive approach.

“We line up, we put our hand in the ground, we play physical,” Armstead explained. “And being able to play free and not have to think too much and so many assignments and all those things, I think, allow for people to see us fly around out there, and that’s what you guys see on game day.”

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