SANTA CLARA — When the 49ers drafted Solomon Thomas with the third pick in 2017, they thought they’d get a Pro Bowl defensive lineman, an elite interior pass rusher. Not a mere part-time player.
Now, they see Thomas for what he is: A mere part-time player.
He was a designated run-defender last Sunday. He played defensive end when the coaches expected the Minnesota Vikings to run, and didn’t play when the coaches expected the Vikings to pass.
“He’s a really good run defender,” defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said about Thomas on Thursday. “And he’s actually quick. He can disengage quick and get to the ball carrier quick. He doesn’t give up a lot of ground on double teams, so he’s a very good run defender in that regard. Obviously, we fully trust him to defend the run.”
And obviously, they don’t fully trust him to rush the quarterback. That’s why last Sunday he played only 35 of the 71 defensive snaps — less than half the game. Thomas hasn’t yet earned the right to rush on third down.
“If we’re talking about third-down pass rush and all of that stuff, he’s got to be one of the best ones on a consistent basis,” Saleh said. “And he’s gotten a lot better. He really has.”
But he hasn’t gotten good enough.
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