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Solomon Thomas Has Had A Career Resurgence With Raiders

  • The Draft Network
  • November 16, 2021
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The former No. 3 overall pick in 2017, Solomon Thomas’ insertion into the Las Vegas Raiders’ front has seen a revival of a career once littered with expectation. A former Stanford Cardinal standout who enjoyed minimal success in San Francisco, a newfound jolt as an interior presence has seen Thomas progress into one of football’s most impactful ‘hand in the dirt’ defenders.

Splitting time on the edge and inside for the 49ers, Thomas’ skill set was never a fit in the Bay. At 6-foot-3 and 280 pounds, Thomas was too big to consistently threaten the edge and too small to stack and shed on the inside against larger, stronger offensive linemen. It was the worst-case scenario for San Francisco, and after suffering an ACL tear, Thomas eventually found himself in the cellar of his positional depth chart fighting for snaps against fellow first-rounders Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, and Nick Bosa. After four years of juggling positions without ever gaining traction along the 49ers’ defensive front, Thomas was released following the 2020 season, joining the Raiders just a few days into the free agency window.

Since his arrival, Thomas has been nothing short of outstanding. After primarily working as a bulky, stiff edge rusher with the 49ers where more than 70% of his snaps came on the outside shoulder of the tackle, his move to the inside for Vegas has seen Thomas enjoy a career resurgence within a high-octane front four.

Lined up as a 3-tech here against the left guard, Thomas showcases a lethal spin move, quickly working into the backfield. Mostly known for his excellent hand usage and ability to “get skinny” between linemen, the development of Thomas’ game with two of football’s elite edge rushers on either side of the line has presented him with a bevy of 1-on-1 looks, and, resultantly, a pressure rate among the league’s elite. After forcing a career-high 19 pressures in 696 snaps in his first professional campaign, Thomas has recorded 12 through just nine games on 44% of defensive snaps, while also totaling 2.5 sacks, the most in a single season thus far in his NFL tenure. On the inside of one of football’s most intimidating outside rush tandems in Yannick Ngakoue and Maxx Crosby, Thomas’ impact and consistent inside push as a tone-setter has allowed the two edge threats to work hat-on-a-hat at times, which in turn, has welcomed a boatload of quarterback pressures, and more importantly, 11 combined sacks.

With just a tick over 5% of his workload now on the outside, Thomas is back where he’s best. A superior talent at Stanford where he initially made his name working head-up with offensive guards, his increased ability within the confines he’s most comfortable has also welcomed an array of new skill and power moves that’s made blocking Thomas a bear for a full 60 minutes. From a smooth up and under to his aforementioned spin move, Thomas’ role in Gus Bradley’s aggressive, pin your ears back style of defense has seen the 26-year-old thrive in nine games—and he’ll remain a key anchor to the Raiders’ front as they look to remain competitive in a dog-eat-dog AFC West. 

A signing that was initially ridiculed due to his lack of prior success and consideration as a draft “bust”, the slide inside for Thomas has seen an entirely different beast evolve along the Raiders’ defensive front. At 5-4 and just one game back of the division-leading Kansas City Chiefs, his continued improvement and ability to push the pocket will remain paramount if the Raiders look to mask their front office debacle and qualify for the postseason for just the second time since 2002.

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