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Solomon Thomas: The Return

Thomas had one of his best games of the season when the team needed it the most.

NFL: Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers continued rolling on Sunday by upsetting their division rival, the Seattle Seahawks. There’s already tons of media on us breaking the losing streak and how well Deforest Buckner and Nick Mullens played, but the unsung hero is this contest was Solomon Thomas. Checking the box score, you’ll see 2 tackles, but so much of what Thomas accomplished on Sunday won’t show up on any stat sheet.

Playing at both inside and outside positions on the defensive line, he was able to consistently cause havoc and control blockers. This allowed for other players to make plays. Today we take a look at some of the film and how Thomas helped San Francisco win the game.

First thing I noticed from Thomas was his ability to control the line of scrimmage. He was able to get under his blockers and discard them easily to make the tackle. He also did a great job in the outside of setting the edge and funneling the Seattle run game back into the teeth of the San Francisco defense.

Here we have two great examples of Thomas standing up Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown. Thomas shows solid technique by jumping outside as to not get hooked, then using his inside arm, he extends and leans in to prevent Brown from getting into his chest. Then as the ball carrier approaches, he tosses him aside and gets in on the action.

When the play wasn’t coming Thomas’ way, he showed great quickness down the line to crash down the runner before they could gain any yards. More solid technique as he rushes up the field first, checks for any reverses or bootlegs, then makes a beeline towards the running back. Here’s two great examples of him doing just that.

Solomon Thomas played his best on the inside. I’m looking forward to seeing him dominate more from his natural position. While his outside game still needs some work, inside he’s able play well because he’s quick off the ball. It also looks like he’s been working with Buckner on his hand technique as he was beating blockers left and right using similar moves.

This first clip is pure power, he stands up the guard, and then tosses him to the side to make the tackle.

Thomas also did well for himself in the pass game causing pressure and eating up blockers. This allowed one on ones for other lineman and also kept Fred Warner and Elijah Lee free to roam sideline to sideline.

In our first clip, the 49ers use scheme to get Buckner one-on-one in space and it works. Arik Armstead takes a wide rush outside, while Thomas and Ronald Blair run a stunt on the opposite side. Thomas attacks the inside guard so quickly the center is forced to lean over and double him. This leaves Buckner one-on-one with no other lineman close enough to help. Once Buckner beats the guard, he’s untouched toward the QB for the sack.

Thomas also caused pressure himself on the quarterback. Here we see some of the hand technique mentioned earlier. He swats the guards hands away and then rips under him to pass by. Wilson is forced to break out of the pocket and is eventually corralled by Buckner.

Thomas’ biggest impact on Sunday came late in the game. Did you notice every time there was a big play by Seattle it was called back by a holding call? There were three, two at the end of regulation, and one in overtime. All three were called on the offensive lineman attempting to block Solomon Thomas. I have those clips below. Each time he simply beat the blocker at the point of attack and the lineman was forced to hold him. Each time it was a drive killer and eventually gave San Francisco the ball back to go and win the game.

4th quarter, 3rd and 4. Holding. Seahawks forced to punt a few plays later.

4th quarter. One Minute left. This would’ve gotten them into field goal range to win but the Seahawks were forced to punt again. Regulation ends in a tie.

Overtime. Seahawks driving to win the game, their drive is killed by a third holding call drawn by Thomas.

In those three plays alone you can see Thomas has improved. Combine those clips with the rest above and we start to get an idea of his overall growth and ability. There’s a lot of people on this site and in the NFL universe who tagged Thomas a reach, and seem him as a bust. I can admit myself there were game where he was simply invisible. He started the season slow, we often saw him getting beat at the point of attack and pushed around. The last few weeks however he’s been on a tear. He’s also been mentioned on PFF’s “refocused weekly game recap” the last two weeks in a row. While his overall rating isn’t exceptional, his play on the field shows promise of things to come in the upcoming seasons.

It’s possible the 49ers will draft an edge rusher with their first round pick in the upcoming draft with hopes of continuing to bolster the pass rush. I do believe in Thomas they have a solid player who has shown some versatility and more important shown he can improve and get better. The sky’s the limit next season. Go Niners!