Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

John Lynch hopes to see what Solomon Thomas can do along the interior during 49ers’ final six games

Nov 23, 2018 at 9:58 AM--

San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Solomon Thomas was a guest on the "No Huddle Podcast" during his rookie season. One of his biggest challenges last year, in his opinion, was adapting to playing on the edge of the defensive line.

Of course, if his new coaches felt moving him from his natural spot along the interior was in the best interests of the team, then that's what he was going to do.

"I didn't really play much on the edge at all in college," Thomas told Al Sacco and Zain Naqvi as he discussed his biggest NFL adjustments. "Just adjusting to that and being able to play on the edge and being able to move back inside with different timing at both levels."

Thomas spent the vast majority of his 2015 and 2016 lined up as an interior defender at Stanford. That is what the 49ers envisioned when they selected him with the No. 3 overall pick last year. The opportunities to play a significant number of snaps along the interior have not come. Instead, Thomas has been utilized along the edge, forcing some to wonder if the 49ers are failing to play to his strengths.

"You have to understand, we're very blessed," defensive coordinator Robert Saleh explained on Wednesday. "We have a lot of really good inside guys. Solomon, I do believe, is one of our better football players. So, to get him on the football field in one form or fashion, especially from a base down standpoint, first, second down, run-pass, where I do believe he is a really good edge run defender and he does provide some stuff off the edge.

"In pass downs, we do want to get him inside. But, it goes back to earning, winning one-on-ones consistently and producing at that spot."

General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have also indicated that the long-term goal is to have Thomas play inside. That is where they feel he can flourish.

Lynch joined KNBR on Wednesday morning and shared his thoughts on Thomas' development.

"I think Solomon has been a good football player for us the last couple of years," Lynch said on the "Murph & Mac" show. "He hasn't been as impactful as you'd like from that position."

Much of that perception comes from Thomas being drafted so high. He was also the first draft pick of the Lynch and Shanahan regime, which added even more significance to the selection. The 49ers passed on several other players who have turned out to be playmakers compared to Thomas' production in his first two NFL seasons.

"Solly's been working hard to develop," Lynch continued. "I think when we drafted him, we felt like where he could be an impact player (is) as an inside pass rusher. I hope to see him here in those last six games in those positions, and we can see.

"Can he be the difference maker that we thought he could be when we drafted him? We still very much believe so, but he's got to go show it. Solly's aware of that. He works incredibly hard. We've just got to start seeing it pay off, and some of that is putting him in those situations. I think we all have a better understanding of that coming out of the bye."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Lynch below.

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