A year ago, San Francisco 49ers rookie linebacker Pita Taumoepenu spent much of his rookie season inactive. He appeared in two games, with 28 special teams snaps between the two. It was very much a learning year for Pita T.
Over the offseason, the team had him put on some weight, and he has gained about ten pounds this offseason. Robert Saleh is happy with how he looks, and also that he has not lost his “great get-off” after putting on the weight. He is getting work at both the SAM and LEO positions, which is not a big surprise. Saleh talked about how Taumoepenu, Dekoda Watson, Cassius Marsh, and Eli Harold are all getting work between the two positions.
Saleh views the two positions are interchangeable, and they want to get those pass rushers on the field more regularly.
“We want to make sure that in base downs, those LEOs are on the football field, giving up a little bit of size in exchange for a little bit more pass rush. Those guys are taking to it and they’re figuring it out. Eli is doing a great job, along with Marsh, Pita and Dekoda. They’re all doing a really nice job. So, to get them some more LEO reps for sure.”
Solomon Thomas is playing on the edge on base downs, with Arik Armstead handling the strong end side. Thomas and Armstead will move inside in nickel and dime situations, and considering the team spends more time in sub-packages than in the base 4-3 front, we can expect to see plenty of the edge rushers.
This opens the door for all the edge rushers, but given the work they’ve done with Pita, he seems to have a big opportunity in front of him. Saleh said Pita has adjustments to make on the mental side of playing SAM, but, “Pita does everything 110 miles per hour, so I don’t think it will take him very long to figure it all out.”
Eli Harold is entering the final season of his contract, and the team did not pick up Elvis Dumervil’s option. They added Jeremiah Attaochu, but otherwise did not do much to boost the pass rush. This represents a big opportunity for Pita T.