A highly touted prospect [url=http://www.authenticssanfrancisco49ers.com/cheap-brock-coyle-jersey]Youth Brock Coyle Jersey[/url] , drafted with a premier pick, that underperformed early. It’s not uncommon to hear 49ers fans utter “bust” and “Solly” in the same sentence. The expectation was a double digit edge rusher, a LEO, a weak side defensive end that brought Michael Bennett-levels of disruption. After 2017, a season where Thomas spent over 70 percent of his time as an edge defender, it was pretty apparent the experiment failed. I don’t fault the 49ers for trying Thomas at weak-side defensive end. His athletic profile puts him in the 94th percentile of edge players in the NFL. While athleticism doesn’t guarantee success as a pass rusher, the best pass rushers are typically great athletes. Given the effect of a quality pass rush, it made complete sense to try Solomon Thomas at one of the most valuable positions in football. If he managed to produce as a pass rusher the 49ers would be set for years to come. This offseason, Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus detailed precisely how the 49ers could get the most out of their third overall pick. They should play him along the interior, the position Thomas dominated in college. The logic is fairly straightforward. Success at the college level is predictive of performance in the NFL when the player is asked to do the same things he succeeded in at in college. This makes perfect sense — if a player does something very well in college there’s an increased likelihood they will continue to do that thing well in the NFL. But Robert Saleh’s utilization of Thomas in 2018 mirrors that of 2017. Through Week 7, Thomas has played 77 percent of his snaps on the edge. And, just like his usage, his performance is largely unchanged. He continues to be a very good run defender; a player that’s virtually unblockable when teams throw tight ends at him.But his pass rush has been virtually non-existent. His pass rush productivity this season ranks him 91st out of 107 players with at least 60 pass rush snaps. And even on some of his best pass rush snaps from the edge, he looks like as out of place as a 22 year old at prom. While Robert Saleh may not read Pro Football Focus articles (despite the fact that the 49ers are one of PFF’s clients), Solomon Thomas’ play this season continues to make the case that he should see increased snaps along the interior. In Week 4, Solomon Thomas lined up over Mike Pouncey [url=http://www.authenticssanfrancisco49ers.com/cheap-mike-mcglinchey-jersey]White Mike McGlinchey Jersey[/url] , a top-10 center in football. The result? Thomas basically turns him into a human hula-hoop. Against the Lions, Thomas uses an effective chop to prevent the guard from getting hands on his body, then he accelerates through the gap, ending up with a hit on Matt Stafford.Perhaps the biggest knock on Thomas is that he’s too small to really be an effective interior player. This argument still baffles me in a post-Aaron Donald world. But in case you were wondering, yes, Solomon Thomas still holds up as a run defender along the interior. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Robert Saleh continues to stubbornly play Thomas out of position. Sheldon Day and Earl Mitchell routinely out-snap the third overall pick in the draft, despite the fact that Thomas grades better along the interior than both of those players. In Thomas’ 60 interior snaps this season through week 7, his overall PFF grade (71.9) is higher than both Earl Mitchell (63.0) and Sheldon Day (61.6). And, perhaps most telling, Thomas’ pass rushing productivity would rank him 9th amongst interior defenders. That’s just a shade behind DeForest Buckner, who sits at 7th. Saleh made a small, but, significant change against the Rams. He aligned DeForest Buckner at 1-technique; a defensive alignment usually reserved for nose tackles. That move opened up opportunities for Thomas to play along the interior. 16 out of 38 opportunities, to be exact. Thomas’ 42 percent interior utilization was by far the highest rate of any game this season. How did Thomas respond? With the third highest single game grade of his young career. It took 20 games, but this should be the inflection point for Solomon Thomas. The 49ers won’t ever be able to properly evaluate him [url=http://www.authenticssanfrancisco49ers.com/cheap-deforest-buckner-jersey]Youth DeForest Buckner Jersey[/url] , or get the most out of him, unless the experiment against the Rams becomes a season-long blueprint. Another second half lead and another tick in the loss column for the 49ers. After the game, head coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t mince his words at all when asked about the late-game collapse, adding “There was a number of plays, extremely disappointed. Thought we put ourselves in a position to win the game...I thought we had a chance to step on their throats and didn’t.”The 49ers’ youth and lack of a pass rush continues to show up late in games when they try to protect a lead. There are a few defensive breakdowns or penalties, combined with too much time in the pocket for opposing quarterbacks. On New York’s final drive, Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning was 7-of-10, aided by two huge defensive penalties from corner Ahkello Witherspoon and linebacker Malcolm Smith that kept the drive going. Nine plays, 75 yards later, the Giants have taken the lead and now the 49ers are in a near-impossible situation given who their quarterback is.Flipping that around, I thought San Francisco’s offense played decently, given that they were down wideout Pierre Gar莽on before the game. Breakout quarterback Nick Mullens finished 27-of-39 for 250 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions.How did the 49ers measure up to the pre-game keys that were laid out?1. Slow down the Giants’ superstars, RB Saquon Barkley and WR Odell Beckham JrI expected the 49ers to cover one of these guys particularly well, while the other would run wild all over Robert Saleh’s defense. Except, the exact opposite happened. The 49ers’ defense did a particularly effective job defending running back Saquon Barkley [url=http://www.49ersauthorizedshops.com/authentic-jimmy-garoppolo-jersey]Jimmy Garoppolo jersey[/url] , but dropped the ball against superstar wideout Odell Beckham Jr — on the two most important plays of the game.First up — Barkley. The former Penn State running back carried the ball 20 times, yet it was for only 67 yards (3.3 YPA). On numerous occasions, Barkley would be stuck dancing in the backfield with nowhere to go. If you take out his longest run of 18 yards, the average drops to 2.6 YPA. He tacked on four catches for 33 yards, but considering his multiple double-digit reception games in the past, the 49ers did well against the rookie.On the other hand, San Francisco’s defense seemed to let Beckham Jr. run “buck naked” — as corner Richard Sherman likes to say — against the defense. On both of his touchdown receptions, there were busts in coverage that allowed for an easy 12 points for the Giants.On the first touchdown catch, three 49ers’ defenders were in the area, but the ex-LSU star snuck behind them for a wide-open — I mean, the next defender wasn’t in the same zip code wide-open — touchdown. In the ensuing touchdown, Witherspoon expected help from the free safety, but Beckham Jr. was too busy celebrating his touchdown by that time already. Outside of those two plays, the 49ers’ defensive backs and linebacker Fred Warner did a decent job of keeping Beckham Jr. in check.2. QB Nick Mullens continues his “Mullens’ Magic” from last weekThis was going to be the real question heading into Monday night — can Mullens keep up his play from last Thursday. The answer was a resounding confirmation. Mullens certainly continued his magical play against the Giants — who played much better defense than the Raiders did last week. I’m sure there were a few plays that Mullens would like to have back, but for the most part, it seemed like he did what he could. His first interception raises questions about arm strength [url=http://www.49ersauthorizedshops.com/authentic-mike-mcglinchey-jersey]Authentic Mike McGlinchey jersey[/url] , but the second interception was due to a dropped pass.On the final drive of the game, Mullens was able to move the ball 54 yards in 53 seconds, before throwing it out of the end zone in the final play to win the game and I’m sure he had a lot of Giants’ fans on the edge of their seats.For the rest of the season, opposing defenses are going to force Mullens to throw the ball outside of the numbers and really test his arm strength and timing with his wide receivers. Aside from that, Mullens has continually showed poise in the pocket and the ability to make the correct pre-snap reads. It’ll be tougher against better defenses, but I expect more from Mullens than I did from backup C.J. Beathard the last few weeks.3. DC Robert Saleh should turn the pass rushers loose against the Giants’ OLComing into the game, Manning was sacked 31 times by opposing defenses and it’s been a poor theme for the Giants’ offensive line all year long. Looking at a lot of his sacks before the Monday night matchup, it seemed to be partially due to Manning’s immobility, as well as an offensive lineman’s mistake. I fully expected Saleh to turn the pass rushers loose and make Manning feel the pressure in the pocket. This was a case of: “Are the 49ers’ rushers that bad or the Giants’ OL that good?” — because San Francisco finished the game with only one sack for an eight-yard loss. Coming into the game, the Giants were giving up nearly four sacks per game, so I expected at least that for a young 49ers’ defense. Yet, a combination of poor coverage in the backend and no top-flight pass rusher continues to hurt the defense — especially in late-game situations. It was a particularly bad sign that the 49ers’ could not generate more sacks against a team that gifts them away on a weekly basis.
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