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Golden Nuggets: Will Solomon Thomas earn an expanded role with a strong training camp?

PFF ranks the defensive lineman as one of 10 NFL players who will need to ball out at camp to prove themselves.

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Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There is no doubt that San Francisco 49ers’ defensive lineman has struggled to find his footing since being selected third overall at the 2017 NFL Draft.

Thomas hasn’t quite found a role with the Niners, bouncing from end to tackle as the coaching staff tries to maximize his contributions. The 24-year-old has recorded 93 tackles, and 6 sacks over his three seasons. With general manager John Lynch opting to decline Thomas’ fifth-year option in May, the pressure is on the Stanford product to establish himself as an impact player.

Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson put together a list of 10 NFL players who need to show out at training camp in order to expand their roles in 2020, and Thomas is one of them:

“If he doesn’t back that up in camp and the preseason, though, first-round rookie Javon Kinlaw is likely to claim those snaps. Thomas has just 73 total pressures across his three-year NFL career, and his number of pressures has declined every season. His pressure and win rates are better when he is at an interior alignment, but he has been lined up on the edge more in his career than he has inside.”

With All-Pro DeForest Buckner traded to the Indianapolis Colts, there will be a ton of snaps available to whichever player earns them. As Monson points out, Thomas’ numbers are better when he is playing inside, something former NFL’er Stephen White pointed out prior to the 2017 Draft.

Thomas has been a source of frustration for many Niners fans since joining the team. His performance at the combine showed he has the physical tools to make a difference, but whether through effort issues, or personal ones (Thomas’ sister committed suicide in a terrible tragedy in late 2018), the 49ers haven’t seemed to get the most out of him.

Last season, Thomas only played 41% of the defensive snaps, down from 60% in 2018, and 62% his rookie season. This was with Buckner eating up snaps at tackle. With DeFo gone, Thomas will have to earn his keep while competing with rookie Javon Kinlaw and D.J. Jones, among others.

Thomas’ strength is his ability to stop the run. He reads rushing plays well, and usually puts himself in the right position to minimize the damage. The issue with Thomas is his pass rushing capabilities. He has just 23 QB hits over three seasons, to put that in perspective, Nick Bosa had 25 in his lone season.

Lynch has said he is open to bring Thomas back at a reduced price for his fifth-year, but Thomas will have to take advantage of the opportunity he has in front of him in 2020.

What will it take for Thomas for be on the 49ers roster in 2021?

On to some links:

As we inch closer to training camp, what do you anticipate the Niners’ season will go like? NBC Bay Area’s Josh Schrock offers his five bold predictions for the 49ers as real football approaches.

We still don’t know what will happen with running back Raheem Mostert, who demanded a trade after asking for a pay raise. Legendary 49ers’ QB Steve Young weighed in with some advice for Mostert heading into the 2020 season. (49ers Web Zone)

The San Francisco wide receivers group has a lot to prove next season. Fansided’s Peter Panacy says one injured receiver is primed for a big year in 2020.

Dallas Cowboy’s QB Dak Prescott couldn’t ink a long-term deal this offseason. NBC Bay Area’s Brian Witt says the Niners can benefit from the Cowboys’ mismanagement of the situation.

The linebacking group is poised to make a jump next season. 49ers’ team reporter Keiana Martin previews how Fred Warner, Kwon Alexander and Dre Greenlaw have already all but sewn up their starting positions.

Even though he’s out with a Jones fracture, receiver Deebo Samuel is still trying to improve his game. Check out this post on Deebo’s Instagram, showing him make some sweet one-handed grabs.

Tight end George Kittle’s contract extension still remains the biggest priority for Lynch and co. One former NFL pass catcher says the Niners should pay Kittle like he is a wide receiver. (h/t