The San Francisco 49ers lost Arik Armstead to a broken hand in Week 6, and that resulted in an up-tick in playing time for rookie Solomon Thomas. It’s safe to say he took advantage of his opportunity. Thomas finished the game with a team-high nine tackles (two for a loss) and one sack.
The performance has earned Thomas his third nomination for the fan-voted Pepsi Rookie of the Week award. His competition this week includes DeShaun Watson, Leonard Fournette, Marshon Lattimore, and Myles Garrett. Watson, Fournette, and Lattimore all seem like the strongest candidates to win, and my guess is it ends up one of the two offensive players.
Thomas had a season high snap percentage following Armstead’s departure. And with Armstead and Aaron Lynch both expected to miss Week 7, Thomas will continue to be a workhorse. Head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked on Monday about Thomas’ production in Week 6, and how to evaluate his progression.
“I hope he keeps coming. You know, I think he's had, no one just gets better each week. He goes for it every week. I thought he took a little bit of a step back versus Indy and I thought he took a step forward this week. I thought he played relentlessly and he played very hard, kept working, got that sack opportunity and I think he had a number of tackles. I don't know the exact number, if it was nine or 10 or something and that's because of how hard he was working. He was doing some good things and he definitely had an effect on that game versus a very good O-Line.”
The 49ers invested the No. 3 overall pick in Thomas, and heading into the season it looked like Reuben Foster would be the more productive of the two first round picks. Foster will be back soon, but Thomas has been able to establish himself as a regularly productive piece of the defense. The focus has been on Foster, but Thomas has emerged as a key piece of the defense.