There’s a lot wrong with the 49ers right now, and things may get much worse before they get better.
At 1-2, and coming off two consecutive blowout losses, the Niners’ offense is out of sync and the defense – particularly in pass coverage – is regularly giving up huge chunks of yardage while allowing opposing receivers to run free.
Now, the 49ers have a giant hurdle coming up this Sunday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium against the 3-0 Packers of quarterback Aaron Rodgers – an even better quarterback than Carson Palmer or Ben Roethlisberger, who both shredded San Francisco coverage schemes.
But in the midst of all the negative, there is at least one positive: No. 1 draft pick Arik Armstead appears to be improving at a rapid pace, and his emergence on the defensive line could give a big boost to the pass rush and help the shell-shocked secondary.
Armstead, the 3-4 defensive end from Oregon, is getting more playing time each week. In three games, he played 12 snaps against the Vikings in Game 1, 14 the next week against the Steelers and 18 in the loss to the Cardinals in Week 3.
He collected the first sack of his NFL career vs. Arizona, taking down Palmer, while also notching three pressures and two hurries in 13 pass rushes, according to Pro Football Focus, which gave him a plus-1.7 grade, the highest given to any 49ers defensive lineman in the game.
“I’m just getting more and more comfortaqble,” Armstead said this week. “The more and more I play, I’ll get more comfortable and settled in and able to do my job and try to help my team win.”
Armstead says he’s constantly learning in his first pro season. As a 3-4 defensive end, his job as a pass rusher often is to take the inside route, between the tackle and guard. There isn’t much call for finesse.
“It’s being quick,” he said. “It’s tight spaces when you’re inside. When you’re on the edge, you have a little more time to set up moves and things like that. It’s about being physical, violent and quick in those tight spaces.”
The 49ers certainly need sacks from Armstead – or any other defender, for that matter. Armstead’s sack of Palmer was the team’s sixth this season but first since the season opener, when San Francisco got to Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater five times.
The 49ers rank tied for 12th in the NFL with six sacks. Green Bay, meanwhile, is tied for third in the league, already with 11 sacks.
Kickoff for Sunday’s game is set for 1:25 p.m.