It’s still more than three months until the first real game of 2018, but already the 49ers see a different Solomon Thomas than the one they saw in 2017.
The former Stanford defensive lineman, the Niners’ No. 1 draft choice last season, had a solid rookie year, playing 14 games, starting 12, and collecting three sacks while getting in on 41 tackles.
But with a year of experience and a better understanding of what it takes to succeed — and being much more comfortable with the team’s defensive schemes — Thomas is taking some big steps.
“Even in the meeting room he’s a lot more vocal,” fellow defensive lineman DeForest Buckner told a writer for the team’s website this week, as players go through organized team activities (OTAs). “He interacts with everyone a lot more. Last year he was more shy and reserved. You can see that he’s a lot more comfortable round us. On the field it’s early and we are still in shorts, but I can see the development from last year to this year.”
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh says Thomas will split his time at defensive end and defensive tackle, depending on game situations. Saleh, too, sees Thomas as much more in sync with the system and what’s expected of him. The 49ers hope he'll give them a much-improved pass rush from the tackle position on passing downs.
“The plan for Solomon is the same,” Saleh told reporters, according to David Bonilla of 49ers Webzone. “He’s on the edges during base downs, and he’ll come in and rush the passer on the inside. We’re very excited about Solomon and what he’s been showing. He’s really starting to understand the pass rush part of it in terms of attacking half a man and taking away space with his get-off.
“Those guys rushing as a unit, it’s starting to take shape, and you can see where it’s going to head and, hopefully with Solomon, people are going to look at production, but I think he’s going to be a lot better. Production or not, he’s going to be a much better football player this year.”