49ers

49ers GM John Lynch won't label Solomon Thomas a bust, still a 'big believer'

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49ers GM John Lynch won't label Solomon Thomas a bust, still a 'big believer'

The 49ers have received little return on the investment of their 2017 No. 3 overall draft pick.

General manager John Lynch acknowledges defensive lineman Solomon Thomas has not produced to the level expected of a player selected so early in the draft. But Lynch said he has not given up on Thomas, who ranks 17th on the team in tackles and has one sack as a part-time player through 10 games.

“A lot of people use the word ‘bust’ or whatever,” Lynch said on The 49ers Insider Podcast. “He’s not that. He’s a good football player for us.

“I think a lot of people struggle when you have the No. 3 pick. ‘Why isn’t he in there more?’ And that’s something we have to answer. But you have to earn those opportunities. That’s something Kyle (Shanahan) has always been clear on. Solly needs to continue to earn those. And we need to continue to put him in position to thrive.”

Thomas appeared in 14 games with 12 starts as a rookie. With 41 tackles and three sacks, Thomas showed signs he could take his game to a higher level. But Thomas’ production has regressed in his second season.

Thomas, 23, faced tragedy in the offseason when his older sister, Ella, died from suicide on January 23. Thomas has used his platform as an NFL player to bring awareness to mental health issues. It is only reasonable to assume his real-life anguish has impacted his on-field production.

[RELATED: Whitner: Thomas not a fit]

“It’s been tough on Solomon,” Lynch said. “I can’t even imagine. I often try to put myself in his position, and I know the struggle that he’s going through. Solomon is very aware that the struggle is real, that it’s something he deals with every day.

“But, also, he needs to find a way to come and be the best he can be at his job.”

Thomas has two years remaining on his rookie contract after this season, and Lynch said he expects the former Stanford star to come back from the bye week and make an impact as the 49ers close out the season.

“I’m still a big believer in Solomon Thomas,” Lynch said. “A lot of people say, ‘Why?’ You go back and study the history of defensive linemen in this league. A lot of them don’t figure it out in Year 1. They don’t figure it out in Year 2.”

Lynch added, “In this second half of this Year 2 for him, he’s got to really start being the player we all know he can be. Some of that is opportunity, and putting him in situations where we think he can thrive. And I think we’ll see that in the second half of this year.”

Packers-49ers game features best friends Matt LaFleur, Robert Saleh matching wits

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Packers-49ers game features best friends Matt LaFleur, Robert Saleh matching wits

SANTA CLARA – Matt LaFleur and Robert Saleh are best friends, so it would be no surprise that one had a favor to ask of the other this week.

“I was messing with him the other day,” LaFleur said Wednesday on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. “I asked him to call me. I shot him a text message. I said, ‘Hey, would you give me a call? I have a couple questions about your defense.’”

LaFleur, 40, is the head coach and offensive play-caller for the Green Bay Packers. Saleh, 40, is the 49ers’ defensive coordinator. The teams meeting Sunday night at Levi’s Stadium.

“That was the last of the communication,” LaFleur said.

LaFleur and Saleh served as graduate assistants on Brian Kelly’s 2004 staff at Central Michigan in LaFleur’s hometown of Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

Saleh began work for the Houston Texans in an entry level position in 2005. LaFleur joined the Texans’ staff as a quality control coach in 2008 after Saleh gave him a recommendation for the job.

LaFleur, whose brother Mike is the passing game coordinator on the 49ers, is in his first year as head coach of the Packers. Saleh is being talked about as a person who will receive interest as soon as this offseason for any NFL head-coaching vacancies.

Matt LaFleur will be going head-to-head against Saleh’s defense on Sunday in a game with huge NFC playoff implications. The 49ers are 9-1 and atop the NFC West, while the Packers lead the NFC North with an 8-2 mark.

LaFleur has known Saleh well for more than a decade, and he is impressed with the alterations he has made to his defensive scheme this season with the 49ers.

“It’s definitely evolved from the background being Seattle, Jacksonville,” LaFleur said of Saleh. “He’s implemented some more two safety looks and changed some of the rules up. I think he’s done a heck of a job with it.

“You talk about one of the more sound systems in this league, I think that’s a big reason they haven’t given big plays. It’s extremely difficult to get those big plays on that defense. That’s a credit to Robert and his staff, and there are some pretty damn good players on that side of the ball, too.”

49ers' Deebo Samuel named to Pro Football Focus Team of the Week

49ers' Deebo Samuel named to Pro Football Focus Team of the Week

After a rough showing in the 49ers’ first loss of the season against the Seahawks in Week 10, San Francisco’s receiving core came to play in Sunday’s win over the Cardinals.

But no one stood out more for the 49ers’ offense than rookie wideout Deebo Samuel.

The South Carolina product hauled in eight of his nine targets in the winning effort, tallying 134 yards receiving.

Without star tight end George Kittle, San Francisco needed another pass-catcher to step up and Samuel did just that. The rookie aptly was named to the Pro Football Focus “Week 11 Team of the Week” for his big performance.

[RELATED: Witherspoon expected back as starter for 49ers vs. Packers]

The speedster dominated with the ball in his hands, too, racking up 49 yards after the catch, and forced two missed tackles.

Samuel will have an exponentially tougher matchup in Week 12 when the 49ers welcome the Green Bay Packers and their stifling secondary to Levi’s Stadium.