BEASTwriter Review: 49ers’ NaVorro Bowman leads way, Ray-Ray Armstrong improves in pass coverage

Armstrong and Harold struggle w/setting edge

The Seattle Seahawks love to use the zone-read option. It can cause confusion between the opposing front seven. Unfortunately for the San Francisco 49ers outside linebackers, they struggled. Five-year veteran LB Ray-Ray Armstrong failed to maintain gap control off the scrape-exchange three times while OLB Eli Harold failed twice. 

The scrape-exchange is a scheme aimed at alleviating any guess work off the zone-read option. Typically, the defensive end will crash-down on the running back or quarterback horizontally, while the free-flowing linebacker fills in his place. All of this with outside containment of course. 

Both Armstrong and Harold failed to fill-in allowing Seahawks QB Russell Wilson to either run for first-downs or pick up huge gains. Unacceptable. This had to be coached up leading up to game day, so to see this happen should be concerning. 

However, those two weren’t the only linebackers who failed with gap integrity, as LB NaVorro Bowman had one.  

So how did the 49ers linebackers stack up in Week 2? Who’s rising and who’s falling? See my grades below to find out. 

LB NaVorro Bowman (Mike) 

Analysis: Outside of a missed gap assignment in the run game, Bowman played stout versus the run. He paced the linebackers unit in multiple categories including tackles for loss or no gain (2) and tackles of three yards or less (3). 

The pass coverage wasn’t bad either. Bowman was targeted just once all game–good for a completion of only four yards. He did miss a tackle however but other than that clean game for Bowman all around.

Week 2 stats: 10 tackles (including 1 TFL) 

Run Grade: 9/10

Pass Coverage: 7/10

OLB Eli Harold 

Analysis: As stated earlier, Harold did not have his best game. Two blown assignments in the run game and no pass rush to speak for the second consecutive week. This has to improve. His pass coverage was a lone bright spot as Harold receives a perfect grade from me in that department. 

Week 2 stats: 1 tackle

Run Grade: 5/10

Pass Coverage: 10/10

OLB Ray-Ray Armstrong

Analysis: Armstrong led the team in missed assignments (3) and tackles of three yards or less (3). A tale of two categories it remains to be seen if Armstrong has enough discipline to maintain his gap integrity. He also whiffed on an open field tackle while being targeted twice in the passing game. 

The result of those targets were two completions for 14 yards. However, he also had a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty which turned that 10-yard pass play into a 25-yard gain. Last week, Armstrong allowed a 17-yard first-down completion while whiffing on a tackle.

He did much better in Week 2 –grading out three points higher (6.0) than the Carolina game (3.0). 

If Armstrong is to win the coach’s trust, he needs to play smarter. In two games this year, Armstrong has yielded 35 yards of field position due to penalties. 

  • 15-yard face-mask (CAR)
  • 5-yard defensive holding (CAR on TE Greg Olsen)
  • 15-yard unnecessary roughness (SEA)

Week 2 stats: 8 tackles 

Run Grade: 8/10

Pass Coverage: 6/10

[Related Article: Tank Carradine and Arik Armstead shine brightest against Seahawks]

Ryan is the Founder/CEO of, 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 or call him at (408) 622-0996.