Arik Armstead’s first NFL game brought the first penalty for the 49ers rookie. But coach Jim Tomsula said Sunday he wasn’t entirely unhappy with the foul.
On the fourth-quarter play in Saturday’s 23-10 exhibition loss to Houston, Texans running back Kenny Hilliard ducked out of the backfield for a pass. Armstead, playing on the left side of the defensive line, recognized that Houston was setting up a screen and hooked the running back, prompting the flag.
He was too aggressive and could have used better technique, Tomsula said. But it also showed nice awareness from a 21-year-old who missed nearly all of the team’s spring sessions.
“It was a penalty and you don’t want that,” Tomsula said. “But my point to the guys (on the sideline) was, ‘Hey, he saw it, he felt it, he was on it.’ Now we’ll just clean him up.”
Armstead, the 49ers’ first-round pick, entered in the first half just before the two-minute warning and played the rest of the game. He played more snaps (46) than any other 49ers defensive linemen, and he finished with two tackles.
Tomsula said Armstead’s debut was mixed. “Some really good things and some really bad things, some not-so-good things,” he said. “We see what we know about Arik – he’s got some power to him, he’s got length and he can bend. The guy uses leverage.”
Tomsula was displeased that Armstead seemed to get fatigued as the game wore on. That was partly because the Texans punted only once in the second half while the 49ers had trouble making stops on third downs.
“So we got a little winded there,” he said. “But the guy strains. So I was happy to see that.”
None of the 49ers’ defensive units was all that stout. The 49ers gave up 400 yards, and the first-team defense allowed the Texans to march quickly downfield on their first two drives. Only an impressive goal-line stand in which Houston failed to get into the end zone on seven plays from inside the 3-yard line kept San Francisco from falling behind by two touchdowns early.
Some really good things and some really bad things, some not-so-good things.
49ers coach Jim Tomsula on rookie Arik Armstead’s performance Saturday
Tomsula said there were some individual lapses. But he noted the 49ers didn’t game-plan for the Texans and were “vanilla” in their pass coverages. Houston, for example, used four wide receivers on its opening drives.
“It’s not something we’ve spent a lot of time on,” he said. “Whereas if we were game-planning, we’d have spent time on that – the spacing and all that kind of stuff.”
Temper, temper – Tomsula still was trying to temper the enthusiasm surrounding Aussie Jarryd Hayne, who had the longest run, punt return and kick return of the game for the 49ers.
“We don’t need to put undue expectations (on Hayne),” Tomsula said. “That’s unnecessary to me, to put that on his plate right now. I just want him to stay focused on getting better. The guy is a world-class athlete.”
Despite Hayne’s 53-yard run – made possible by a strong block from fullback Bruce Miller –Tomsula said Hayne must improve at getting through “those tighter quarters and seeing the little creases. That’s where the improvement (must be). That’s where he has to keep working. Not that he’s bad at it. He’s not, but we’ve to keep improving there.”
400 Yards allowed by the 49ers against the Texans
Et cetera – Tomsula gave good marks to two third-year players, nose tackle Mike Purcell and defensive end Lawrence Okoye. Purcell had six tackles and was especially effective at the goal line. Okoye entered the game late but was good at “blasting that pocket down,” Tomsula said.
▪ The 49ers are optimistic inside linebacker Nick Bellore, who has been out because of an illness, will return this week. Another inside linebacker, Michael Wilhoite, is scheduled to have an MRI on the muscle strain that has kept him out of training camp thus far.
▪ The 49ers are thin again at inside linebacker. The only player injured against the Texans was inside linebacker Desmond Bishop, who hurt his calf.