DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas switch line positions in effort to raise sack totals

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Solomon Thomas (94) against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)


The 49ers hope to improve their pass rush by inverting it.

Last season, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner rushed exclusively from the inside, defensive end Solomon Thomas rushed primarily from the outside and each recorded only three sacks.

Now, they’re switching spots.

So far during training camp, Thomas has played nothing but defensive tackle during one- on-one pass-rush drills. And on Sunday, Buckner started taking reps at defensive end.

“He’s a special talent,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said of Buckner after Monday’s practice. “He gets consistent pressure in the backfield. The challenge for us is how to get Buck one-on-one matchups as many times as possible. We’re testing him out there at that end spot to see what he looks like.”

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This article has 52 Comments

  1. With this flexibility, Saleh can feature Buckner in tackle end exchange stunts… It seems that QB pressure season will be from schemes featuring Buckner — I don’t see Pita/Marsh/Attaocchu combo playing a dominant role.

  2. Interesting article.
    I don’t know about moving Buckner “full time” to Defensive End, but I think it makes a ton of sense to move him around the defensive line. That should make it harder for opponents to game and offensive lines to make the correct line call . As to Thomas, I think he played a 5 tech in base formations and moved inside in their subpackages. (Armstead played the edge/leo in subpackages before he was hurt) So him moving inside isn’t a new concept unless they are planning on moving inside on base downs, in which case I fear he would get run over.

    1. Shoup

      I agree with you 100%…putting Buckner all over the Dline is something the niners are (should be) famous for…Adam Snyder had the same fate on the Oline…”Ain’t it wonderful…he can play all of the Oline positions..” Only to be replaced with ..”Snyder can’t play Oline…”.. Frankly, I’m dumbfounded at Shannahan even attempting to take our BEST player and changing positions on him….It’s only my opinion, but I believe that ‘we have the horses’ in Ronnie Blair, Pita, Day, and Marsh …All the false commentary can’t hide the fact that we’re rebuilding our D to try to find a place for Thomas to look good at…ain’t happening…

  3. Grant- by his shear absence from commentary, shall we assume Attachou is a non-factor in camp?
    – saw Cooper was doing some work…. do u anticipate he’ll b ready next week?

  4. Read on another site that Attaochu was beaten on a route, Dunbar caught the ball, but was slowed down, which allowed Attaochu, who was trailing the play, to punch out the ball for a fumble.
    Sounds like Attaochu has a high motor, and good hustle.

    1. I guess that’s a no. I’ve had fun playing in the league with this group for the past 4 or 5 years, and hope to do it again, so I’ll keep checking these comments to see if someone starts one. Thanks!

      1. C4C runs that in here, and he’ll post it frequently as we get closer to the season. We do a fantasy league for blog bragging rights as well….

        1. Thank you! I just didn’t recall if we did it through the pre-season as well, so I didn’t want to miss out. I’ve never gotten into fantasy, but quite enjoy the pick ’em league. Thanks again! I’ll keep my eyes peeled for C4C’s link.

  5. Grant…. Does it matter now (7 August) what the 9ers are listing as Solomon’s weight?

  6. Really an interesting dilemma for 49er coaches. Taking a big guy and putting him outside and taking a smaller guy and putting him inside goes against what you would logically think would be successful. Is the big guy quick/fast enough to get to the QB from the outside? Is the smaller guy strong enough to fight through all the traffic from the inside? By all accounts Buckner was an absolute terror in QB pressures from the Inside even though he didn’t have high sack totals he consistently effected plays. Will the 49er defense give that up by moving Buckner outside? The last thing that sticks out to me is how terrible is Eli Harold that teams consistently double and triple teamed Buckner but Harold still didn’t have much impact on games. Never been a big fan of this guy. Seems like a backup and that may be about it.

      1. I think the PR guys are the ones that make out depth charts this early on so take it with a grain of salt.

  7. Viking’s offensive line is currently a patchwork quilt. I continue to like our chances in this game. The Vikings are coming off a deflating loss in the playoffs, and going up against an inferior team on paper. I think we leave the Vikings reNorseful….

    1. Not so sure about that. Vikings are very talented and Zimmer is a good coach. Vikings are 3-1 under Zimmer in their opening game outscoring their opponents 91-61. Interestingly, the only loss Zimmer has experienced on opening day was in 2015 against the 49ers in Jim Tomsula’s first and only opening day as a head coach. Kaepernick only threw for 165 yards but Carlos Hyde had a day. Hyde went off for 168 yards and 2 TD’s. Vikes will be tough to beat and it will be very interesting to see how a strategically sound defense attacks Jimmy G after an offseason studying his games from last year. 49ers o-line will face an outstanding Vikings d-line and it could be a long day.

  8. Grant,
    I’ve noticed you are writing one post a day exclusively for the blog and writing one article a day that is printed in the paper and posted to the blog. Does that mean you are officially the 9ers beat writer for the Press Democrat?

  9. Raiders best writer Paul Guttirez has listed Mack as a trade candidate. Word is circulating that the Raiders would listen to offers. Paul mentions Raiders would be wise to listen if an offer came in with a first rounder. Would the Raiders trade with the Niners would be the question. 2 first rounders seals the deal.

    1. Word was circulating that OG Norwell and RB Lewis was at the top of the 49ers wish list, and we saw how much truth there was to that.

    2. RAW,

      It’s hypothetical speculation and nothing more. May as well dream about getting Donald too while you’re at it.

              1. I want to be clear I believe the Niners should offer what it takes to aquire him. That doesn’t mean I believe he for sure he goes there. I do believe he does get traded. Gruden will not pay him 20 mil a year. He doesn’t believe in paying that much for any one player not named Carr. There is a major disconnect there. Gruden is the defacto GM. McKenzie is on the way out after this year. Gruden wants to semi rebuild this whole roster. He has made comments about how bad the D was with Mack. Mark Davis does not have the money for a massive guarantee. Just watch it play out and just remember who mentioned it first. :)

              2. I would like to know as well Rocket. So far this has been nothing but speculation by fans that want Mack and the sports media. There has been no indication that the Raiders are thinking about trading Mack away.

              3. RAW,

                What evidence do you have of any of this being the case? How do you come to the conclusions you did here?


                It’s completely made up with zero substance.

              4. Let’s just let it play out. Maybe you are right and this is nothing. Time will tell. It’s possible they let him play out the 5th year option and then let him walk. I don’t believe they will play the franchise tag with him. I just i have a gut feeling they want compensation.

              5. Raiders

                DE Khalil Mack. Wait, what? Sure, the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year who made NFL history a year earlier by being named first-team All-Pro at both defensive end and outside linebacker is a foundation piece for the Raiders. But his holdout, which reached 10 days on Monday, is mystifying to many in the organization. Now, would it be smart for Oakland to trade the face of its defense as it begins a rebuild under Jon Gruden? Probably not, but as Gruden himself recently told NFL Network, the Raiders’ defense was not that good in 2017 with Mack. Ouch. GM Reggie McKenzie (jokingly?) asked me at the NFL owners meetings in March if I had an extra $100 million to help him pay Mack. If a team dangled two first-rounders and, say, $8 million, the Raiders would be wise to listen. — Paul Gutierrez

              6. RAW,

                It’s possible they let him play out the 5th year option and then let him walk. I don’t believe they will play the franchise tag with him. I just i have a gut feeling they want compensation.

                You are contradicting yourself here. They don’t get anything other than a pick at the end of the 3rd round if they let him walk so it wouldn’t make much sense to go that route if they are focused on compensation. In many cases the FT isn’t good for the team because of the inability to maneuver under the cap, but this is a different case altogether. If Mack is asking for 20+ mill a season with most of it guaranteed, there is nothing to be gained in cap space and the Raiders would actually be paying more than they would if they franchised him for 2-3 years.

                Think of it from the perspective of the team you are a fan of. If the Niners had Mack and were in this position, you’d think it was ludicrous to consider parting with a HOF talent at arguably the second most important position on the field wouldn’t you?

                That is why I’m telling you there is no smoke and no fire. The Raiders aren’t going to trade him unless they get a ridiculous offer from a team selling out their future because he’s too good to trade, especially when they can control his rights for another 4 years.

                Not sure why you posted the article. It doesn’t support your position and is clearly the Raiders writer just speculating for an interest piece.

    3. Using the Sebbie approach to bundling trades, let’s send Garoppolo, Foster, and a #1 to the Raiders for Carr, Mack, and a 5th rounder. The Sebbie approach requires no scheme fit; plus, Grant had called for trading Garoppolo. Grant has insider knowledge we don’t–enough to pull the trigger with Garoppolo.

    4. At most the 49ers should offer a 2nd rounder for Mack. In 1981, the 49ers picked up an All-Pro DE from the Chargers for a 2nd rounder. Fred Dean turned out to be pretty good. Can’t imagine Khalil Mack is more valuable than Fred Dean.

  10. Grant, if it’s what you say it is, I love it! Especially later in the summer… and going into the fall.

  11. How about the Niner’s #1 in both 2019 and 2020 plus Arik, Eli and Garnett for Mack and the Raiders #1 in 2020?
    Never happen, but it sure could kick the defense up into the top 5 in the league.

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