In December, 49ers rookie defensive lineman Solomon Thomas acknowledged his rookie season wasn’t quite what he hoped it would be. He told reporters he’d felt plenty of pressure to produce as the No. 3 overall pick of the draft, and hadn’t put up wow-type numbers.
“I know it’s going to take time,” Thomas said before the season finale against the Rams. “It’s not going to be right away. I know it’s going to be a little bit, but I’m working my butt off to be the player I need to be.”
Thomas finished the season with 12 starts in 14 games, 41 tackles, three sacks and a fumble recovery on 655 defensive snaps, according to Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com.
“For the most part, he was an effective run defender, finishing tied for second on the team in tackles for loss with 10,” wrote Wagoner. “But he often struggled as a pass rusher, moving around the defensive line as the Niners sought the best place for him to have opportunities to get after the quarterback.”
But as the 49ers enter their offseason work, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh told Wagoner that he’s confident Thomas will make significant progress in 2018 after having a full offseason of work to complement what he learned in his first professional season. Saleh said he saw nothing but positives from Thomas, including athletic ability, intelligence and work ethic.
“As far as his growth, I’m very pleased,” said Saleh.
Thomas says his priority is to get better as a pass rusher and he knows what he needs to work on.
“Definitely just being a better pass rusher overall,” said Thomas. “There’s a lot of things – work on your bend, violent hands, get off – so I’m going to focus on all those things this offseason, and they’ll be a big part of what I key in on these next few months.”
Though the 49ers moved Thomas around on the defensive front, using him on the inside and outside, Saleh told Wagoner he believes Thomas is best suited for playing inside, next to DeForest Buckner.
Buckner – who had a terrific season – believes Thomas will, too, in 2018.
“Solomon is a great player and he’s a smart guy and he can handle all that kind of stuff (learning so much as a rookie),” Buckner told Wagoner. “At the same time, being a rookie, you also have a big part of the game is the mental part, and he’s really had to get past that part. I feel like he has been throughout the season, and I feel like whatever the coaches give him, he’s determined to get it done.”