No. 4: Defensive End Solomon Thomas
The time has already passed to accept the idea the 49ers’ 2017 first-round NFL Draft pick, defensive end Solomon Thomas, is little more than an OK player and a rotational piece in San Francisco’s otherwise stacked defensive line.
He has been massively outplayed by fellow linemate Arik Armstead this season, yet that doesn’t remove the notion Thomas’ role in the defense means nothing.
San Francisco’s pass defense has been outstanding this season. Yet the run defense has left something to be desired, as coordinator Robert Saleh’s unit is allowing an average of 4.7 yards per rush — good for 23rd in the league.
The thing here is Thomas is a good run stopper. And if teams are willing to take chances running the ball against the 49ers, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Thomas receive more snaps against better-rushing opponents.
Thomas’ run defense is down this year, according to Pro Football Focus, sitting at 53.5, compared to his previous two seasons, where this number was in the mid-60s.
The Cardinals are the latest team to show the Niners’ apparent weakness against the run, meaning Thomas will have a significant job to do if Saleh and Co. want to cut down on that 4.7 yards-per-rush average down the stretch against better teams.