Former 49ers top pick Solomon Thomas is thriving with the Raiders

Former 49ers defensive lineman Solomon Thomas is quietly having the greatest success of his profession in his first season with the Las Vegas Raiders. Despite enjoying lower than half of the Raiders defensive snaps this season, Thomas has already racked up ten quarterback pressures and a couple of.5 sacks. After struggling to generate constant strain all through his profession in San Francisco, he appears to have discovered success in a brand new state of affairs.

Thomas was the first participant drafted throughout Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch’s tenure with the 49ers. However, with a big rebuild forward of them, the 49ers determined to disregard the top quarterback prospects in that 12 months’s draft (Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, and Deshaun Watson).

Initially choosing second total, the Niners recognized Thomas as their top goal and engineered a commerce with the Chicago Bears to maneuver down one choice in change for 3 mid-spherical picks. While the Bears drafted Trubisky to be their sign-caller of the future, the 49ers chosen Thomas to attempt to construct an elite line of defense.

However, Thomas by no means lived as much as the lofty expectations that got here with his excessive choice. In 4 seasons with the 49ers, he appeared in 48 video games (30 begins) and recorded 95 tackles and simply 5 sacks. According to Pro Football Focus, Thomas solely pressured the quarterback on 6.8% of his move-speeding snaps with the Niners, in comparison with 11.0% this season.

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Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley runs an identical 4-3 scheme to what the 49ers ran throughout Thomas’ tenure. After all, Bradley employed former Niners defensive coordinator Robert Saleh again when he labored for the Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars. While that explains why Thomas has so seamlessly transitioned into the Raiders protection, it nonetheless leaves one query: what has Las Vegas executed to unlock Thomas’ potential?

On paper, the reply appears to be like easy. First, they allowed Thomas to play extra at his greatest place.

Thomas moved round the line of defense at Stanford however at all times projected greatest at defensive sort out. However, the 49ers already had two nice inside defensive linemen (DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead) once they drafted Thomas. Without a spot for him on the inside, Thomas was pressured to constantly play at worse positions.

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During his time with the 49ers, Thomas performed 77.5% of his snaps on the exterior, lining up on greater than half of his snaps exterior of opposing offensive tackles at the REO and LEO positions. Far from the perfect alignment for a participant of his skillset.

Thomas’ utilization turned extra balanced as soon as the Niners acquired edge rushers Dee Ford and Nick Bosa. When Buckner was traded to the Colts earlier than the 2020 season, it appeared like Thomas would lastly get his first prolonged alternative on the inside line. Then, in the second recreation of final season, Thomas suffered a season-ending ACL damage.

The Raiders signed Thomas to a one-12 months deal this offseason and have deployed him throughout their line of defense. Still, he’s enjoying inside at the highest price of his profession (57.5% of his snaps) and is solely lining up exterior the tackles on 9.0% of snaps.

The 49ers’ determination to move on different prospects at the top of the 2017 NFL Draft to pick out Thomas has generated loads of criticism. Even in his breakout this 12 months, Thomas is removed from an elite defensive lineman. Yet, it’s onerous to not query the impression of San Francisco’s improvement technique.

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In Thomas’ first two NFL seasons, he performed simply 13.3% of his snaps on the inside line of defense. Given the sizable adjustment gamers should make from the school to skilled ranks; it’s onerous to not marvel if his improvement was stunted by the Niners’ determination to play him virtually completely on the edge.

The Las Vegas Raiders are getting higher manufacturing out of Solomon Thomas than the 49ers have been ever in a position to in his 4 years in San Francisco. Thomas hasn’t overhauled his physique or playstyle. He’s not enjoying in a unique defensive system. He’s merely getting extra alternatives to play at his greatest place. The undeniable fact that it took becoming a member of a brand new group is perhaps a big indictment of the 49ers group and its plan for drafting and creating younger gamers.