No. 2: Better Defined Roles for the Defensive Line
San Francisco 49ers
One of the bigger question marks was what to do with 2017 first rounder, Solomon Thomas.
The Niners moved Thomas around a lot his rookie season, often lining him up off the edge in pass-rushing situations. The majority of his pass-rush snaps (69 in total) came from the right side, where he registered a paltry 3.6 pass-rush productivity rating.
Thomas is far more effective rushing from the inside, likely as the left defensive tackle on passing downs. And this is apparently where San Francisco uses him this season.
Pro Football Focus selected Thomas as one of 10 second-year players in line for a big 2018 campaign.
Not rushing him off the edge should mean good things for the rest of the 49ers defensive front. An interior pass-rushing combo of Buckner and Thomas — not unlike what the Los Angeles Rams are trying to do with interior rushers Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh this year — should command the attention of opponents’ offensive lines.
If both Buckner and Thomas are effective in these defined roles, that should free up the Niners edge rushers for more one-on-one action off the outside.
Those are the kinds of battles San Francisco’s current personnel should be able to win with some regularity.