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Solomon Thomas is effectively the new Alex Smith


: 22.11.2018
: 531

: 29, 2019 9:10 am     : Solomon Thomas is effectively the new Alex Smith

. A highly touted prospect Rookie Nick Mullens Jersey , drafted with a premier pick, that underperformed early. Its not uncommon to hear 49ers fans utter bust and Solly in the same sentence. The expectation was a double digit edge rusher, a LEO, a weak side defensive end that brought Michael Bennett-levels of disruption. After 2017, a season where Thomas spent over 70 percent of his time as an edge defender, it was pretty apparent the experiment failed. I dont fault the 49ers for trying Thomas at weak-side defensive end. His athletic profile puts him in the 94th percentile of edge players in the NFL. While athleticism doesnt guarantee success as a pass rusher, the best pass rushers are typically great athletes. Given the effect of a quality pass rush, it made complete sense to try Solomon Thomas at one of the most valuable positions in football. If he managed to produce as a pass rusher the 49ers would be set for years to come. This offseason, Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus detailed precisely how the 49ers could get the most out of their third overall pick. They should play him along the interior, the position Thomas dominated in college. The logic is fairly straightforward. Success at the college level is predictive of performance in the NFL when the player is asked to do the same things he succeeded in at in college. This makes perfect sense if a player does something very well in college theres an increased likelihood they will continue to do that thing well in the NFL. But Robert Salehs utilization of Thomas in 2018 mirrors that of 2017. Through Week 7, Thomas has played 77 percent of his snaps on the edge. And, just like his usage, his performance is largely unchanged. He continues to be a very good run defender; a player thats virtually unblockable when teams throw tight ends at him.But his pass rush has been virtually non-existent. His pass rush productivity this season ranks him 91st out of 107 players with at least 60 pass rush snaps. And even on some of his best pass rush snaps from the edge, he looks like as out of place as a 22 year old at prom. While Robert Saleh may not read Pro Football Focus articles (despite the fact that the 49ers are one of PFFs clients), Solomon Thomas play this season continues to make the case that he should see increased snaps along the interior. In Week 4, Solomon Thomas lined up over Mike Pouncey Nick Mullens Jersey , a top-10 center in football. The result? Thomas basically turns him into a human hula-hoop. Against the Lions, Thomas uses an effective chop to prevent the guard from getting hands on his body, then he accelerates through the gap, ending up with a hit on Matt Stafford.Perhaps the biggest knock on Thomas is that hes too small to really be an effective interior player. This argument still baffles me in a post-Aaron Donald world. But in case you were wondering, yes, Solomon Thomas still holds up as a run defender along the interior. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Robert Saleh continues to stubbornly play Thomas out of position. Sheldon Day and Earl Mitchell routinely out-snap the third overall pick in the draft, despite the fact that Thomas grades better along the interior than both of those players. In Thomas 60 interior snaps this season through week 7, his overall PFF grade (71.9) is higher than both Earl Mitchell (63.0) and Sheldon Day (61.6). And, perhaps most telling, Thomas pass rushing productivity would rank him 9th amongst interior defenders. Thats just a shade behind DeForest Buckner, who sits at 7th. Saleh made a small, but, significant change against the Rams. He aligned DeForest Buckner at 1-technique; a defensive alignment usually reserved for nose tackles. That move opened up opportunities for Thomas to play along the interior. 16 out of 38 opportunities, to be exact. Thomas 42 percent interior utilization was by far the highest rate of any game this season. How did Thomas respond? With the third highest single game grade of his young career. It took 20 games, but this should be the inflection point for Solomon Thomas. The 49ers wont ever be able to properly evaluate him Nick Mullens 49ers Jersey , or get the most out of him, unless the experiment against the Rams becomes a season-long blueprint.Its time for 49ers to consider some changes to their defensive line rotation The San Francisco 49ers have made it pretty clear they are going to rely on their defensive line to pressure the quarterback. They are near the bottom of the league in blitzing, instead choosing to send their front four as the primary pass rushers.Through two weeks, the 49ers rank No. 19 in adjusted sack rate at Football Outsiders. From an individual perspective, DeForest Buckner has been the most productive of the teams pass rushing options. Arik Armstead has a greater win rate inside (18.5 percent to 13.2 percent), but Buckners volume coupled with having more decisive wins results in a higher pass rush grade at Pro Football Focus.The group has work to do, but I suppose its not nearly as awful as it could be. If the team looks at some adjustments, we could see the group take a step forward. Most notably, second-year defensive lineman Solomon Thomas deserves more time inside. He has done great work as a run stopper on the edge. That is his strength, and thus far has been the role that has generated the most success.However, in the few instances Thomas has been able to rush the passer from the interior, he has found success. Thomas has played 71 snaps on the defensive line through two weeks. Of that, 60 have been as either left or right edge rusher, and 11 have been what would qualify as the defensive interior, according to PFF. From those 11 snaps, Thomas has rushed the passer on nine. PFF gives him a win rate of 22.2 percent on those snaps. It is a small sample size , but it is higher than that of Armstead and Buckner. Odds are he would not hold up that rate, but it does show some measure of success inside.The 49ers have given DeForest Buckner more work outside than in previous years. Last year, he was an edge defender on two percent of snaps, according to PFF. In two games this season, that rate has increased to 17 percent. The 49ers are not going to make a significant shift in this direction, but getting Thomas inside more frequently in passing situations seems like a good way to beef up the pass rush. You could potentially have a line that includes Buckner, Thomas, Armstead, and Marsh, and maximize the pass rushing talent.Thomas took a step forward in Week 2, offering up a little more in both run and pass defense. He continues to do great work getting a hand on ball carriers in the run game. He also finished the game with four hurries, and looked solid rushing the passer from the inside. It has not exactly looked like what you would expect from a third overall pick, but it also seems like it has been enough to earn a bigger role. The 49ers defense faces a huge test this weekend against the Chiefs, and it might be time to try some new things to beef up the pass rush consistency.

: 20.09.2018
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: 26, 2019 5:36 am     :


: 13.12.2019
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