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Robert Saleh: ‘I think [Tank]’s damn near an elite 6 technique’

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The 49ers have a good problem at strong defensive end.

The San Francisco 49ers invested a third straight first round pick in the defensive line this year, but we apparently can’t forget about a former second round pick. While Solomon Thomas continues getting up to speed, the 49ers have been playing Tank Carradine as the starting strong side defensive end. And he has been impressing.

On Thursday, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said Tank is, “damn near an elite 6 technique.” The 6 technique lines up on the strong end role over the tight end. Saleh thinks he is, “pretty freaking good” at dominating tight ends and making the transition from run to pass on first and second down. The initial question was whether or not Tank would get some opportunities to play as an interior pass rusher.

“He might get some opportunities. I think he’s damn near an elite 6 technique. And to be able to create pocket push from an edge,I think that’s where his home is. And there’s no shame in that. I think he’s pretty freaking good at it. And that’s where Tank’s strength is. Will he get some inside rush? Yes. He had some success with it with Denver, but as a 6, dominating tight ends and being able to transition from run thought to pass on first and second down, I don’t know if you’ll find much better than that in the league.”

Tank has put together a solid first half of the preseason. He ranks third in PFF’s pass rush productivity stat among edge defenders. He had the team’s third highest PFF grade against the Denver Broncos this past weekend, finishing the game with four pressures on only ten pass rushes, and also two run stops.

Heading into the offseason, his roster chances seemed precarious. Solomon Thomas is viewed as a potential strong end in the base and then a tackle in the nickel. However, with Tank’s emergence, it will be interesting to see what kind of rotation the 49ers use with him and Thomas. You can never have too much depth, but decisions do still have to be made.