Joe Staley said Wednesday he’s unlikely to face J.J. Watt in practice this week considering the Houston Texans defensive lineman is recovering from offseason back surgery and has yet to take the field this summer.
But it’s not as if Staley, the 49ers’ longtime left tackle, lacks work against tall, long-armed, explosive pass rushers. His roster is teeming with them, including the player Staley said was having the best training camp of any 49ers defender – Arik Armstead.
“He’s the first guy that jumps out to me on our defense as far as having a terrific camp this year,” Staley said. “Just the speed, the way he’s practicing, the tempo and his urgency of practicing has been a lot better. He’s real physical. He’s getting after everybody.”
Armstead, the 49ers’ first-round draft pick last, has lined up on the left and right side of the line and, if healthy, is a lock to start in Week 1 against the Los Angeles Rams. He’s had a light practice the past two days, however, after injuring his left arm or shoulder in Sunday’s practice.
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He was held out of team drills Wednesday at Kezar Stadium as a precaution, and his status for Sunday’s preseason opener against the Texans at Levi’s Stadium is unknown. The 49ers and Texans will hold a joint practice in Santa Clara on Friday.
Armstead is leaner than he was as a rookie and is playing faster. Staley said that’s likely because, as a second-year player, the defensive lineman simply is processing things more quickly.
“Now it’s just kind of honing up those technical things,” Staley said. “Because he has all the physical tools in the world.”
Et cetera – Coach Chip Kelly said he and his staff would figure out Sunday’s lineup, including the starting quarterback, after Friday’s practice. Neither Blaine Gabbert nor Colin Kaepernick was impressive Wednesday. Gabbert was 9 for 14 and Kaepernick 3 for 8 in team drills.
▪ Rookie guard Joshua Garnett played on the left side with the second-team offense for the second consecutive day. He spent the first week of camp on the right. “Just trying to figure out who’s who and where we’re going to be able to plug guys in,” Kelly said of the move.
▪ Ray-Ray Armstrong lined up at inside linebacker with the first-team defense Wednesday. Armstrong, Gerald Hodges and Michael Wilhoite are vying to play next to NaVorro Bowman. Bowman said he thinks the competition will be settled before the third preseason game.