Everybody was talking about him the first two weeks of training camp. It was hard to miss Arik Armstead's improvement along the San Francisco 49ers defensive line.
Armstead regularly blew up running plays in the backfield and thrived in 1-on-1 pass-rushing drills. His play earned glowing accolades from one of the team's most respected veterans, Joe Staley.
"He's amazing," Staley said following the team's practice at Kezar Stadium on Aug. 10. "He's having a really great camp. He's the first guy that jumps out to me as far as a guy on our defense who is having a terrific camp this year.
"Just the speed, his tempo, the way he's practicing, his urgency has been a lot better. He's real physical, and he's getting after every body. … He has all the physical tools."
The buzz surrounding Armstead calmed when a shoulder injury sidelined the team's 2015 first-round pick for all four preseason contests. It appeared that Armstead's absence was largely precautionary, and he should be on track to play against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 1.
"He's a guy that's done a little bit more over the past couple of weeks, so hopefully 48 hours from now we're feeling pretty good about it," defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil said on Wednesday.
Armstead is eager to take the field and build on the two sacks that he recorded as a rookie.
"I'm super excited. It's been a long time since we played our last regular season game," Armstead said. "I've been preparing all offseason to go out there, and help my team win some games.
"I'm a lot better physically. I've got my body right. I'm a lot better mentally, and I'm way more confident going into my second year. It should be more fun."
NaVorro Bowman is another teammate to have noticed Armstead's progression. The leader of San Francisco's defense acknowledged Armstead's confidence and athletic ability in a recent interview with 49ers Studios.
"As football players, everyone wants to be respected by their peers," Armstead said. "That starts with your teammates. … That's what you shoot for."
The second-year pro is a part of a 49ers defensive line that features depth and versatility.
There's certainly no shortage of height among the group: Armstead, 2016 first-round pick DeForest Buckner, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Quinton Dial and newly acquired Taylor Hart all stand at least 6-foot-5 or taller. Mike Purcell and Glenn Dorsey have shown to be effective NFL nose tackles. Rookie Ronald Blair III displayed in the preseason that he's capable of being disruptive no matter where he lines up.
"We're eight-deep on the d-line," Armstead said. "All of us can play at a high level. It's going to be exciting this year to play with all of them and see what we can do out there together."