49ers Locker Room: Brock Coyle splits first team reps with Ray-Ray Armstrong


LB Ray-Ray Armstrong undisciplined play may open door for special-teams ace LB Brock Coyle

There is no question San Francisco 49ers LB Ray-Ray Armstrong has been struggling with his assignments. A player who is routinely caught out of position in run support, it’s no wonder DC Robert Saleh is giving LB Brock Coyle first-team reps in practice. Coyle shed some light this afternoon that he is indeed splitting starting reps with Armstrong — paired next to Bowman.


Last week witnessed Armstrong neglect his assignment a team-high three times. This is unacceptable. 

Today, we had the opportunity to talk Coach Saleh for his insights on his special-teams ace [Coyle]: 

Q: Why did we see LB Brock Coyle in there for a series there in the first half?

“He deserves it. He works his tail off and he works hard and we wanted to make sure that we got him some more reps. And to be honest with you, I feel he should probably get a little bit more. That’s not an indictment on any of the other players as much as is it is a testament to how he works and how he prepares himself every week.”

Q: Is he competing with LB Ray-Ray Armstrong for that starting spot or are they distinct?

“It’s always competition.” 

What are his [Coyle] strengths?

“He’s a great communicator. Knows everybody’s job on the football field. Very, very strong at the point of attack and he is pretty athletic and fast. He’s a good linebacker. He’s started a lot of football games for Seattle when they needed him and he performed very, very well too. He’s put in his time. He’s put in his work and he deserves to play,” Saleh said. 

BEASTwriter take on Coyle compared to Armstrong: 

At 6-1, 240, Coyle won’t make the splash plays that Armstrong has made so far this season. In my blue chip grading system, Armstrong leads the team in tackles of three yards or less (6). However, he also leads the team in penalties (3) giving up a total of 35 yards of field position. 

While Coyle won’t make those splash plays in the former (tackles of 3 yards or less), he will be an asset in the latter (no penalties). In addition, his best attribute that separates him from Armstrong is his high football IQ.

Under Saleh’s scheme, you don’t have to be the most athletically gifted athlete to thrive. Instead pre-snap recognition is just as important. 

Coach Saleh praised Coyle’s make-up from the shoulders up in today’s presser. 

“He’s a great communicator. Knows everybody’s job on the football field,” Coach Saleh said. 

Last year, the 49ers used special-teams ace LB Nick Bellore in a similar role. He would start 10 games while recording 83 tackles, 1.0 sack, and two forced fumbles. That’s the type of similar output I expect out of Coyle. 

Whether Saleh will roll the dice on Coyle over Armstrong is anyone’s guess. But if I’m coach, I wouldn’t think twice about it. No player wants to play with a teammate who consistently neglects the play call. I’m sure coach is frustrated behind the scenes which is why Coyle may get the starting nod on Thursday. 

Ryan is the Founder/CEO of NinerFans.com, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at BEASTwriterNFL@gmail.com or call him at (408) 622-0996.