When the 49ers made Solomon Thomas their top pick in the recent NFL draft, they acquired not only a talented defensive lineman but a versatile one.
In San Francisco’s new 4-3 base scheme under defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, Thomas should be able to play both defensive end and tackle. As Vinnie Iyer of The Sporting News wrote, “It was a no-brainer for (GM John) Lynch to use the No. 3 overall pick on Stanford’s Solomon Thomas, a Michael Bennett-like outside-inside freak. Saleh knows he can play Thomas at either end or tackle and get production.”
Thomas’ head coach at Stanford, David Shaw, reinforced that idea in an interview Tuesday with a writer from the 49ers website.
“This is an explosive interior pass rusher, which can’t be undersold,” Shaw said. “We all think about rushing the passer off the edge, but if you’ve got a legitimate big-time interior rusher, quarterbacks have a hard time stepping up in the pocket. He will get the quarterback off of his spot and make him uncomfortable.”
Shaw says, too, that Thomas is equally effective against the run as the pass. He knows Thomas will have to adapt to a new level of play, but is confident he will succeed.
“You want to have a strong suit,” Shaw said. “Solomon’s is his combination of explosion and technique. There will be an adjustment period, but he’s coming into it with some great tools.”
Shaw also notes Thomas is just 21 and played only two years for the Cardinal, so he has a lot of room to grow.
“This is an ascending player, which is exciting,” Shaw told 49ers.com. “He has the ability to be an edge pass-rusher, and that’s the next step in his progression. He will continue to develop. The best is yet to be seen of Solomon Thomas.”
Thomas says the 49ers have told him he may be used as a defensive end in the base defense, and then move inside to defensive tackle in pass-rush situations to give the front line the potential for more pressure