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Brock Coyle Has Earned Extra Reps on Gameday
September 20, 2017 12:28 AM | Joe Fann

The San Francisco 49ers want the starting lineup to be a meritocracy. Position battles will always be an ongoing competition, and Robert Saleh reiterated on Tuesday that he always aims to have the best 11 players on the field at all times.

There are no politics involved. That goes for everyone, even players like NaVorro Bowman. Recall that before Reuben Foster got hurt, it was Bowman who left the field in dime packages.

Now it appears that Brock Coyle is the latest benefactor of Saleh's "everything must be earned" philosophy. Coyle began training camp with the second-team defense behind Bowman at MIKE linebacker. A combination of injuries and strong play has caused the linebacker to climb the depth chart.

"He's a great communicator," Saleh said of Coyle. "He knows everybody's job on the football field. He's very, very strong at the point of attack and he is pretty athletic and fast. He's a good linebacker. He's put in his time. He's put in his work, and he deserves to play."

Coyle spelled starter Ray-Ray Armstrong for one series in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks and played six total defensive snaps. According to Saleh, Coyle's role may be on the rise going into a primetime showdown with the Los Angeles Rams.

"He works his tail off and he works hard and we wanted to make sure that we got him some more reps," Saleh said. "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."

Coyle spent his first three seasons with the Seahawks after being signed in 2014 as an undrafted free agent out of Montana. The linebacker was used primarily on special teams but did make five starts in Seattle.

Coyle is still a mainstay on special teams (he led the 49ers with 25 reps on special teams in Week 2), but now he's aiming to contribute on defense as well. His opportunity comes with Malcolm Smith on Injured Reserve and Foster still out with an ankle injury. Armstrong and Coyle are the only remaining options to start next to Bowman.

"Brock and Ray, they both have great strengths," Saleh said. "They are different in their own way, but they both get the job done. It goes back to that mindset of trying to be as fresh as possible. If you have a guy like Brock, who can come in and perform the way he does then you take advantage of it."

There's no telling what Coyle's snap count will amount to against the Rams. It may be similar to what we saw in Seattle. It may be closer to a 50/50 split with Armstrong. Heck, Saleh may decide that Coyle has earned a starting role.

Nothing has been communicated to Coyle as of yet. So he'll keep working, just as he has to get himself in this situation.

"When your number is called, you need to be ready," Coyle said. "It's about doing my job. I know that whenever my time comes, I'm going to be ready."

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