Editor’s note: This is Part I of a series examining the 2017 rookie season of 49ers defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. For Parts II, III and IV, visit the home article.
VS. RUN [OUTSIDE]
Solomon Thomas (#94) offers a lot vs. the run game as an edge defender. One aspect in particular is how he chases plays down from the backside. He did this more than a few times, showing off the athleticism and closing speed that made him a top-three draft pick.
Thomas also proved he could hold down his side of the field, standing his ground on the line or in a sprint to the sideline like a linebacker. He ran down Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley, bottled up former Stanford teammate Christian McCaffrey, and held his ground against Leonard Fournette and the Jaguars' power running game.
Thomas showed an ability to stack, shed, locate the ball and take the right angle to make the tackle.
There was even one play against Washington in which Thomas made a heck of a recovery to own his side. He was blocked in the back by Terrelle Pryor from the slot, causing him to fall, and he completed a 180 on his way back to his feet and ran down Chris Thompson for a minimal gain.
This was a heck of a hustle play by Thomas, and evidence of why his motor was a commonly thrown around strength during the pre-draft process.
Thomas also held the point real well and willingly took on double teams, often forcing runs back inside.
Here are examples of him regularly stacking linemen (and one very strong tight end), and setting the edge.
There was some bad, though, it wasn't all good when it came to his run defense from a wide technique. What came up were rookie mistakes; misplaying the read option, happy feet, or not squaring up the runner. All areas that can be improved on.
There were times where Thomas was turned or redirected by the tackle, and the running back (or quarterback) would use the exact gap he vacated, including two touchdowns to his side in Week 5 against Indianapolis.
Thomas showed the ability to defend any one of these plays, so these misses are less alarming when projecting future seasons.
For the most part it's him needing to be consistent shedding blocks, reading and reacting to the play, and knowing he can't give up that space. Veteran savvy wipes away these mistakes. And since Thomas is a smart player, and one that seemingly made biweekly improvements over his rookie season, he should learn from this.
Media courtesy AP Images