Prior to the season, I predicted that second-year defensive end Solomon Thomas was going to have a breakout year, as he had taken a noticeable leap in play quality from the beginning of his rookie season to the end of it.
San Francisco 49ers
Plus, rookie defensive linemen, especially undersized ones such as Thomas, usually need a year to develop.
However, the breakout I had expected from Thomas never arrived. He had a very unproductive season, as for some odd reason, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was not giving Thomas a lot of snaps. You can see the odd fluctuation of the amount of snaps Thomas was getting from game to game on Football Guys.
What frustrated me the most about Thomas was not his fault — it is Saleh’s. The former first-round pick was continually being lined up on the outside to face huge offensive tackles that he had no chance of beating. Thomas’ natural position is on the interior of the defensive line, and he did look better when Saleh did put him there.
With the addition of an effective pass-rusher over the offseason, Thomas will undoubtedly see more opportunities on the inside where he can flourish. We got to see a glimpse of Thomas’ potential in the 49ers’ overtime win against the Seahawks in Week 15 — his highest snap count of the year and the most effective game he had this year.