Calais Campbell, Arizona’s starting defensive end, is like “a little brother” to the 49ers’ Darnell Dockett, who played alongside Campbell with the Cardinals for six seasons.
But Dockett thinks Arik Armstead will be better. Armstead, the 49ers’ first-round draft pick, has drawn plenty of comparisons to Campbell because they play the same position and have similar builds. Armstead is 6-foot-7; Campbell is 6-8.
“Arik’s got a better upside – strong, fast, athletic, played basketball. And he listens,” Dockett said of the former Pleasant Grove High School star. “He’s going to be a dominant force for us.”
The comparison is bound to raise eyebrows in Arizona considering Dockett, who has relished the role of instigator, spent more than a decade there and Campbell is viewed as one of the NFL’s top defensive ends. He has 431/2 sacks the past six seasons and made the Pro Bowl last year. The scouting service Pro Football Focus ranked him as the fourth-best 3-4 defensive end in the NFL last season.
Armstead also has been praised by coach Jim Tomsula for arriving at training camp in “great shape” after missing nearly all of the offseason program because his school, Oregon, was still in session. The 17th overall pick also quickly has learned the team’s defensive schemes and held up well in one-on-one pass rushing drills.
But he currently is far down the depth chart, and Dockett, 34, is one of three veterans ahead of him at left defensive end.
Dockett said, “Don’t get me wrong, Calais Campbell is a dominant football player ...” But he said Armstead has advantages, such as a nutritionist, a strength and conditioning staff and a coach in Tomsula who seems intent on preserving his players, not wearing them down.
Dockett said his most recent coach, Bruce Arians, had a similar philosophy. But he said his first head coach, Dennis Green, did not.
“I give him a lot of credit for drafting me (in 2004) and giving me an opportunity,” Dockett said. “But there’s been times with him where I was like, I didn’t know if I want(ed) to play football anymore.”
What Dockett likes most about Armstead is he asks questions and listens.
“Some guys come in, being a first-rounder, and they think they know everything,” Dockett said. “He’s not like that. He asks questions and he wants to learn. And he’s very humble. That’s what I really like about him the most.”
Of course, having a mentor like Dockett might not always be in Armstead’s best interest.
“(When) I go out on rookie night with him and tap his credit card – I’m really going to enjoy that,” Dockett said with a smile.