Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Saleh: Solomon Thomas starting to understand who he is as a pass rusher

May 30, 2018 at 3:09 PM--

Several online publications, including, have named San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Solomon Thomas as a player capable of having a breakout season in 2018. The statistics from his rookie 2017 season don't jump out at you – especially when you consider he was the third-overall selection in last year's draft. A player picked that high is expected to have more of an impact.

Thomas had an impressive final season at Stanford, generating 47 pressures and 46 defensive stops, according to Pro Football Focus. The latter led the nation among interior defenders while the former tied for sixth-best. During his rookie NFL campaign, Thomas registered 41 combined tackles, three sacks, three quarterback hits, and 18 pressures during his 14 game appearances and 12 starts. He had one of the worst pressure rates among defensive linemen last year.

Thomas received a lot of work on the edge of the 49ers' defensive front. Many believe his skillset would be better utilized trying to disrupt offenses along the interior.

The 49ers coaches don't seem too worried about Thomas' development. The plan for 2018 will continue to have Thomas on the outside during base downs, according to defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

"The plan for Solomon is the same," Saleh said on Wednesday. "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."

Thomas got a late start to the 49ers' offseason last year. At the time, league rules prevented him from participating in the team's offseason program until Stanford, which is on the quarter system, completed finals. Then Thomas remained unsigned until the day after his new teammates reported to training camp.

While Pro Football Focus rated Thomas as the nation's best run defender during his final season at Stanford, Saleh believes the defensive lineman is improving in his role as a pass rusher.

"Solomon is really starting to understand who he is as a pass rusher and he's starting to work that," Saleh said. "And you can see it come into fruition with him. I know we're early in OTAs and so there's still a long way to go. He's on the right path, he's doing the right things, and so we'll see – especially when pads come on."

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