First-round draft pick Arik Armstead, who was compared to Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell last month, has played Campbell’s role on the 49ers’ scout team this week as they prepare for Sunday’s game in Phoenix. He provides a good likeness; both men are approximately 6-foot-8 with long limbs.
During training camp, Darnell Dockett, who played 11 seasons with Arizona and who views Campbell “like a little brother,” said Armstead could be better than his former teammate.
“Arik’s got a better upside – strong, fast, athletic, played basketball. And he listens,” Dockett said of the former Pleasant Grove High School and Oregon star. “He’s going to be a dominant force for us.”
That potential may have cost Dockett a roster spot. He had been lining up at left defensive end on passing downs for the 49ers during the summer but was cut just before the regular season began. Armstead and Tony Jerod-Eddie have occupied that role early in the season.
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Armstead has played just 26 snaps in the 49ers’ two games and hasn’t recorded an official stat, such as a tackle or quarterback hit. But he was one of the few 49ers who put any semblance of pressure on Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday by disrupting the pocket on two occasions. The Steelers quarterback easily escaped and he was not sacked or hit during the during the 49ers’ 43-18 loss.
“Arik is progressing. I mean, we’ve talked about it – he’s a rookie,” coach Jim Tomsula said. “And Arik is working. He’s working his tail off. With rookies you see that great play and then you see a play that tails off. It’s just getting it up to that point and staying there. Again, creating habits. You are what you habitually do.”
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he and his staff agreed with the comparison to Campbell, who is in his eighth season and has nine tackles in two games.
“We had very, very high grades on him and I like the comparison,” said Arians, whose team had the 24th pick in the draft. “It’s the same things that we brought up in our draft room, that he did remind us a lot of Calais – very active, very athletic, big, long guy. … When he gets in there, he’s an explosive player. He can get to the quarterback. He can disrupt things.”
Tomsula, a former defensive-line coach, said he has an appreciation for Campbell’s length and the way he uses it. Campbell will be matched against the right side of the 49ers’ offensive line Sunday.
“When he comes flying off the ball and all that length is coming at you, you’re looking for a target to get your hands on,” Tomsula said. “And that (arm is) so long, it can get you out of position. And then he’s got the power to go with it. So you’re trying to feel your way through it and then – boom – your natural reaction when you’re getting a lot of push is to go at something and now the length gets you in trouble. He knows how to utilize all that stuff. So a really good defensive lineman.”
Dockett was dealing with cracked cartilage in his rib cage when he was cut; he remains a free agent.
Running back updates – Carlos Hyde said Friday he didn’t think the low hit that briefly sent him to the sideline Sunday in Pittsburgh was dirty.
“I didn’t think nothing of it; I just thought he was doing his job,” Hyde said of Steelers safety Mike Mitchell, who struck Hyde in the quadriceps at the end of a second-quarter run. “I’ve got to be ready for it anyway. Not many (defensive backs) are going to try and hit me high anyway, so I’ve just got to protect myself and get used to that.”
Mitchell was not fined for the hit.
Hyde, who also was checked for a concussion Sunday, practiced Wednesday through Friday and is listed as probable for Sunday’s game against Arizona with a quadriceps bruise. Fellow running back Reggie Bush, however, did not practice this week with a calf strain and is doubtful.
That means rookies Mike Davis and Jarryd Hayne will back up Hyde. Davis was the preferred backup runner in Pittsburgh and took all the carries after Hyde left the game in the third quarter.
Asked how he could juggle his hard-charging style with trying to avoid hard hits that might cause injury, Hyde said it’s a difficult balance.
“Instead of me getting hit, I like to deliver hits,” said Hyde, who added he felt good this week. “I feel like Week 1.”
Injuries – Receiver Bruce Ellington (ankle) and tight end Vance McDonald (knee) are listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. So is former 49ers guard Mike Iupati (knee), who signed with the Cardinals as a free agent. Iupati practiced all week and will play left guard, his position for the 49ers, if he suits up.