There will be plenty to watch Friday night in the 49ers’ exhibition opener.
With a new head coach in place, a much different defensive scheme and an influx of veterans and rookies on a roster that was one of the NFL’s worst in 2016, the 49ers will have unfamiliar players in positions all over the field when they take on the Chiefs in Kansas City at 6 p.m. (Bay Area time).
But one player certainly to draw attention is the rookie wearing No. 94.
Defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, the team’s No. 1 pick in the draft and the third overall choice this spring, is sure to get his first professional action, and it will be interesting to see how he fares.
Though he got off to a slow start in training camp because of a short holdout, Thomas has been a quick study. He’s gained momentum in recent practices.
After a recent session in which Thomas had a sack and a run stop, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said, “Solomon is starting to show up.”
Thomas’ quickness, strength and versatility will get him snaps at both end and tackle in the team’s 4-3 scheme under Saleh.
Saleh figures to use a cast of defensive linemen, almost all being able to play inside or outside, and each shuffling in and out to stay fresh. This week, Saleh singled out Thomas and Tank Carradine as players that will get their share of snaps, if not win starting roles.
“We’re going to have fresh bodies rotatate in and out,” Saleh told the Sacramento Bee. “So if being a starter is important to a D-lineman, if they want that first play, we’ll talk about that. In the end, we’re trying to get a good rotation going, where they are fresh and rolling. Where at the end of the day they may look like they have equal reps. But in my mind, they’re both starters.”