Editor's note: This is Part III of a four-part series examining the rookie season of 49ers defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. For Parts I, II and IV, visit the home article.
VS. RUN [INSIDE]
Solomon Thomas (#94) in 2017 did not have a lot of inside snaps versus the run. Most weeks it looked like 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh wanted to keep him on the edge to protect his side of the field and to set the edge, which he excelled at.
The D-lineman received the majority of his inside run snaps it seems against the Seahawks in Week 12 - and the key difference from Thomas playing outside vs. inside is he becomes more of a threat to make the tackle instead of setting up a teammate to do it.
What you see with Thomas inside is quick decisions and dominant movement. He’s engaged with his man, reads the running back and violently tosses his man aside to make the tackle. His hand violence and polished technique, and ability to move someone aside and shoot the gap, works better when he's playing inside.
I think he looks like a completely different player.
Thomas plays with more confidence and torque inside. When he's in a downhill situation, and not overthinking and working against his body, he's a real force. Because again, as this wide-bodied (yet light-footed) super freak defensive tackle, he's a twitch and strength player, not really a speed and bend player.
Thomas had very few overall run snaps inside, so these two against Seattle’s unbalanced line were included.
It’s not glamorous for a third overall selection, but Thomas is good at taking on double teams and causing congestion, where his teammates have time to come in and make the tackle.
While he didn't have a ton of run snaps inside, this was a real bright spot for Thomas, and almost interesting that the 49ers didn't get him more work there. The guess would be because the depth at IDL outweighed what the team had on the edge. Thomas was probably the 49ers' best edge player in 2017, so even while it may not have been his best position, it's what was best for the team at the time.
Thomas looks infinitely more comfortable shedding blocks when he’s on guards and centers. When he's on tackles, he's likely to either set the edge or chase an outside run, but whether or not that's the best way to utilize Thomas vs. the run is up for debate.
When inside, he consistently plays a much faster game and attacks the ball carrier, which shows his instincts there and that he's confident in what he's doing. As a former inside player at Stanford, this shouldn't come as a surprise.
But in a league where teams love to start and finish games by running the ball inside, Thomas could be of great value to the 49ers.
Media courtesy Getty Images