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Robert Saleh: The plan is to eventually get Solomon Thomas inside on run downs

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The 49ers defensive coordinator offered thoughts on Solomon Thomas’ role, and how he has done to date.

Carolina Panthers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers have gotten a lot out of their rookie class, but I think many of us were hoping for more from Solomon Thomas. He has shown a lot as a rookie, but given that he was the third overall pick, at times his inconsistency can be a little frustrating. He’ll dart across the backfield for a huge run stop, but then get stonewalled for extended stretches of a game. It’s part of the rookie experience, but that doesn’t make it less frustrating.

The 49ers base defense is a 4-3, but they spend plenty of time in nickel and dime packages. When in their run defense, Thomas spends his time on the end. He then moves inside in passing downs.

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was on KNBR earlier this week, and he talked about Thomas’ rookie season, and the team’s plan moving forward. He loves what he is doing as a run defender, but recognizes he sometimes might be overthinking his work as a pass rusher.Saleh was asked if they wanted to move Thomas inside on run downs, and he confirmed the goal is to eventually have him in there. Here’s what Saleh had to say.

"The way we're built, defensively, it's very similar to -- like, Michael Bennett plays outside on base downs, then he gets inside in rush downs. It's kind of the way our system is built. So I won't put him in that category yet — I think he's got potential, obviously, the sky's the limit. But as a dominant edge run defender — in our scheme, everything is about edges. To be able to dominate in the run game, everything's about edges, and he is an extremely violent edge defender in the run game. He’s really, really good.

"Now, where he needs to get better would be his, obviously, in pass rush where sometimes I just feel like he might be thinking too much. But, at the same time, he has shown a lot of improvement over the years.

"So, inside is where he's going to make his hay. We'd like to play him in there on run downs, eventually. But right now, for him, trying to keep his responsibility as small, his workload as light as possible so he can just go fast. We trust that, over time, that he's going to develop into everything that we need out of him, but, right now, it's just him just trying to learn exactly what it is that he has to do to win one-on-ones in both the run game and pass game."