Arik Armstead

In Armstead's absence, 49ers' backup linemen look to pick up slack

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SANTA CLARA — Following practice on Friday, Kalia Davis left his locker area, walked across the room, around the corner and sat next to fellow 49ers defensive tackles Javon Kinlaw and Kevin Givens.

The 49ers ruled out veteran defensive tackle Arik Armstead for Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks due to foot and knee issues. Armstead is likely to sit out next week’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, too.

Kinlaw is expected to start in Armstead’s place, with Givens and Davis rotating into the action to play significant snaps as well.

Those three players sat together and talked about the challenge ahead with Armstead out of action.

“There’s not one person who is going to fill in and provide the same production that he [Armstead] would,” Kinlaw told NBC Sports Bay Area. “So we’re all going to have to step up. It’s going to be a group effort, for sure.”

Kinlaw is having a solid season as the 49ers’ third defensive tackle behind Armstead and Javon Hargrave. In the 49ers’ 42-19 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 13, Kinlaw doubled his sack total of his first 35 NFL games when he was credited with two sacks of Jalen Hurts. He now has 3.5 sacks in his career.

The key for Kinlaw, the No. 14 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, is that he has remained healthy from the offseason program, through training camp and the first 12 games of the season. He appeared in just 10 games over the previous two seasons due to a bothersome knee issue that finally was solved and corrected.

Kinlaw, Givens and Davis all figure to get more playing time while Armstead is out of the lineup as the 49ers aim for the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs in the final month of the season.

“It’s going to be a group effort,” Davis said. “He’s a huge part of this defense, a great leader. To make up for him, it’s going to take all of us.”

Said Givens, “We all know there’s a standard in the D-line room, so it’s just a next-man up mentality.”

Givens, a five-year veteran, has 1.5 sacks this season while appearing in all 12 games. They will face a challenge to provide the same production in the run game, too. The 49ers allowed just 3.9 yard per carry, 79.0 yards per game, and six rushing touchdowns through 12 games.

Davis made his pro debut last week in Philadelphia after coming to the 49ers as a sixth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. He sat out his entire rookie season to fully recover from an ACL tear he sustained in his final year at Central Florida.

Davis played 19 snaps and registered his first career sack in the closing minutes of the 49ers’ blowout victory.

“We were just happy for him,” Givens said. “It’s always a big moment in the life of a D-lineman to get his first sack.”

“And in his first game, too,” Kinlaw added. “His percentage is pretty high.”

Although Armstead was out of the game at that time, Davis said he received encouragement from the veteran any time he went to the sideline.

“It was awesome,” Davis said of his first NFL sack. “Arik was on the sideline and he was telling me, ‘Just go out there and be sound on my fundamentals and just go.’

“He said everything else will play out. You could tell how big of an influence he was for me. I got my first sack and I did his dance.”

Davis did Armstead’s traditional post-sack belly rub after tossing Hurts for a 3-yard loss. On the sideline, quarterback Brock Purdy had a big smile on his face as he copied Davis’ celebration.

“Everybody was happy for me,” Davis said. “It was a surreal moment for me.”

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