© Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
SANTA CLARA — Injuries have derailed each of Arik Armstead’s previous two seasons. Five practices into his fourth career training camp, he faces another setback.
Armstead suffered a hamstring injury in Sunday’s training camp session. He is considered week to week. He did not practice Tuesday, though he later walked onto the field to watch drills. When 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked whether he views the injury as serious, his responded forthrightly.
“I think it is, somewhat,” Shanahan said. “We found out about Arik and (tight end) Cole (Hikutini) yesterday. Cole, with his groin, (we) think he’s going to be week to week— we will see. Arik might be out a little longer since it’s his hamstring.”
In a team filled with new faces, Armstead is one of 13 players from the 2016 49ers still remaining. Yet he has failed to make a consistent impact due to injuries. He played a full 16-game slate as a rookie in 2015, but he missed the second half of the 2016 season with a torn labrum. In Week 6 of the 2017 season, he broke his hand and did not play again the rest of the year.
Since the 49ers drafted Armstead with the 17th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, he has started just 11 career games. He has played in 14 contests combined throughout the past two years. He has compiled six total sacks and 77 total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.
The 49ers picked up Armstead’s fifth-year option, worth $9 million, this offseason, keeping him under contract through the 2019 season. The 49ers compiled just 30 sacks in 2017, the 26th-best in the league, and did not re-sign leading sacker Elvis Dumervil this offseason.
Armstead, whom the 49ers plan to feature at the ‘big end’ slot in 2018, is one of the vital players tasked with bolstering the pass rush unit. The 6-foot-7 Armstead played well throughout the opening four practices, using his length to bat down balls at the line.
The injury news was not solely negative, though.
Five of the six players who opened camp on the Physically Unable to Perform and Non-football Injuries lists returned Tuesday. That includes linebacker Malcolm Smith, receiver Trent Taylor, guard Jonathan Cooper, safety Marcell Harris, and linebacker Dekoda Watson. Rookie defensive end Kentavius Street continues to rehab a torn ACL he suffered a month before he was drafted.
Smith was the only returning player who participated in team drills. He platooned with rookie linebacker Fred Warner at the middle linebacker (MIKE) spot. Linebacker Brock Coyle experienced tightness during individual drills and sat out 11-on-11s as a precaution. Jimmie Ward also did not play in team drills after feeling tightness during one-on-one drills, according to Shanahan.
Taylor, who missed some time during mini-camp with an injured back, ran routes Tuesday.
Trent Taylor (back) returned to practice today, though he didn’t participate in team drills pic.twitter.com/z1VXGABvvO
— Brad Almquist (@bradalmquist13) July 31, 2018
Colbert picks off Garoppolo
The play of the day came late in practice. The first-team offense ran a play-action, and Jimmy Garoppolo targeted Marquise Goodwin on a post route. With Ahkello Witherspoon hovering, free safety Adrian Colbert came to his help, intercepted the pass, and ran it back for a 60-yard touchdown.
After practice, Shanahan explained that San Francisco’s middle-third safeties rarely cut those routes, but Colbert did, whether deliberately or because the play-action froze him. It was Garoppolo’s first interception throughout the opening five days of team drills.
“Of course, the one time we did it, Colbert didn’t back up and made a great key,” Shanahan said with a half-smile. “I think he was flat-footed because of the run-fake and then shot his guns and made the catch and got a pick-six. So, it was a hell of play by him.”
Rookie of the day
One of the practice’s surprising sights arose when No. 77 trotted out with the first-team prior to the first snap of team drills. It was rookie defensive tackle Jullian Taylor, one of San Francisco’s two seventh-round picks in April’s draft.
The Temple product benefited from Armstead’s absence, but Taylor has been one of the positive, most surprising breakthroughs throughout the opening five days. At 6-foot-5, 280 pounds, he is quick off the line and uses leverage to win one-on-one matchups.
“He’s got size, he’s got power, and he has been playing real well,” Shanahan said on Taylor. “He has earned it by some of the reps he has been doing.”
Taylor has meandered to the NFL. He picked up football as a high school senior and later earned a scholarship to Temple. He did not play as a full-time starter there until his senior year, but he dominated, recording 41 tackles in just 46 percent of snaps in 2017. He later helped his pro prospects when he ran a 4.83 40-yard dash and repped the bench press 31 times.
“He’s just a guy who gets after it,” Solomon Thomas said on Taylor. “He is in there every play, (has) great effort, (a) great motor. (He is) fun to watch. I am really excited for Jullian. He is a great teammate to be around.”
Quote of the day
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk recounted one of Shanahan’s messages in team meetings, praising cornerback Richard Sherman. On Sunday, Sherman lined across Marquise Goodwin in one-on-one drills and got burned. Goodwin got a step on Sherman at the line of scrimmage and used his Olympic speed to dust Sherman for a big gain.
The video, pasted below, gained serious traction on Twitter.
— Rob Lowder (@Rob_Lowder) July 29, 2018
“Everybody saw clip of Marquise and Richard in one-on-ones,” Juszczyk said. “He actually used that as a coaching point. He didn’t go up there and bash on Sherman, like, you know, ‘We paid you this much, and you come out here and give us that.’ It was nothing like that. He actually complimented him because it was his very first rep in one-on-ones since he has been injured (from an Achilles tear). He didn’t hesitate. He was extremely aggressive on the line of scrimmage, and yeah he got beat, but that’s what one-on-ones are for.
The 49ers practice at 10:15 a.m. Wednesday. They will have three consecutive practices before taking Saturday off. They host the Dallas Cowboys next Thursday night in their first preseason game of 2018.