49ers: Solomon Thomas capable of playing anywhere on D-line

49ers: Solomon Thomas capable of playing anywhere on D-line

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers selected defensive linemen with their top picks in the final two drafts under general manager Trent Baalke.

The 49ers fired Baalke at the conclusion of the team’s 2-14 season, and new general manager John Lynch stepped into a tear-down project.

That complete rebuild began Thursday evening with Lynch’s selection of another defensive lineman. The 49ers traded back one spot and selected Solomon Thomas of Stanford with the No. 3 overall pick.

“We see a special football player, disruptive football player, who has tremendous versatility,” Lynch said. “I think he fits in with the current group that we have because he’s a little different than the guys we have. And when I think of Solomon, I think of speed and quickness and disruption.”

The 49ers expect to play more of an aggressive, attacking style of defense under first-year coordinator Robert Saleh. Perhaps, the team’s biggest need is at the “Leo” position, the weak side end that is considered more of a pass-rusher.

Thomas appears better-suited at the other end or at a defensive tackle position, but the 49ers are keeping an open mind about using him at nearly every spot along the defensive line in the team’s new 4-3 scheme.

“There are four defensive linemen and what’s intriguing about Solomon is he has the ability to play all four of them,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “That’s what makes him so unique. That’s why I think John says he’s a little bit different than some of the guys we have, because you can move him around. He has the quickness and speed to play on the outside. He has enough sides to play on the inside, so you don’t want to put him in one spot.

“We don’t think he has to be one specific role. Obviously, he is a defensive lineman, but there’s four spots he can play at and I think that’s going to depend on down and distance, whether we’re expecting run, whether we’re expecting pass and the type of personnel we’re going against.”

49ers-Rams injury report: CB Jimmie Ward unlikely to play Sunday

49ers-Rams injury report: CB Jimmie Ward unlikely to play Sunday

SANTA CLARA – Cornerback Jimmie Ward remained out of practice Thursday with a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the final two defensive series of Monday night’s game at Green Bay.

Ward appears to be unlikely to be available for the 49ers’ game Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi's Stadium. But backup cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon is on pace to be fully cleared after sustaining a concussion.

Witherspoon was cleared for non-contact football activity. If he remains symptom-free, Witherspoon will be available for Sunday’s game. Witherspoon or Greg Mabin would replace Ward.

Meanwhile, wide receiver Dante Pettis appears to be at least another week away from action. After seeing limited time in practice on Wednesday, Pettis did not practice on Thursday.

49ers practice report

Did not practice
WR Dante Pettis (knee)
CB Jimmie Ward (hamstring)

Limited practice
RB Matt Breida (shoulder, ankle)
WR Pierre Garcon (shoulder, knee)
TE George Kittle (knee)
G Mike Person (knee)
C Weston Richburg (knee)
CB Richard Sherman (calf)
T Joe Staley (knee)
WR Trent Taylor (back)
CB K'Waun Williams (shoulder)
CB Ahkello Witherspoon (concussion)

Full participation
LB Reuben Foster (shoulder)
G Joshua Garnett (toe)
WR Marquise Goodwin (hamstring, quadricep)
S Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder)

Rams practice report

Did not practice
WR Cooper Kupp (knee)
G Rodger Saffold (knee)
C John Sullivan (not injury related)
T Andrew Whitworth (not injury related)

Limited practice
DE Michael Brockers (shoulder)
LB Matt Longacre (back)

Full participation
WR Josh Reynolds (hand),
K Greg Zuerlein (right groin)

Richard Sherman explains why he's not disappointed teams aren't targeting him

Richard Sherman explains why he's not disappointed teams aren't targeting him

SANTA CLARA - Richard Sherman is not disappointed that he has not been targeted this season but like all things, he believes that will change.

Two weeks in a row, the 49ers have opened games with blown coverages that led to huge plays by opposing teams. While Sherman has expressed his frustration in the missed assignments, he remains confident that the defense will improve. 

“Guys are playing as hard as they can,” Sherman said. “The mistakes that have happened, have gotten corrected by the coaches in meetings and things like that. I’m sure that one of these days it’ll turn around. It’s football. Very few trends stay the course.”

According to ProFootballFocus.com Sherman has only been targeted ten times this season, allowing two completions for 28 yards. He would like to be closer to the action, but he understands why that is not the case. 

"It’s not really disappointing, you just have to do your job,” Sherman said. “Sure I’d like the opportunity to get my hands on the ball and compete but it’s part of playing a team sport. Everybody has to do their job and everybody has to be on it. That’s all I can do. Do my job, do my part and make sure that I’m locked in and I’m where I’m supposed to be.”

[RELATED: Shanahan surprised by Witherspoon's regression]

Sherman has been in this situation before, with a rookie covering the side of the field across from him. Last season it was Seattle Seahawks defensive back Shaquill Griffin and the team opened up against Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers took advantage of the inexperience of Griffin and targeted his side of the field seven or eight times. 

It was a challenging start for Griffin but things got better for the rookie as the season went on. He registered his first NFL interception in week 17. 

Sherman also recounted his history with Brandon Browner, who registered six interceptions in his rookie year but five of them came late in the season in weeks 11-14. 

“It’s happened a lot,” Sherman said. “You have your ups and downs.” 

Sherman reiterated what he has said the past few weeks. It’s not anything complicated, it’s just players doing their jobs. 

“It’s guys playing sound.” Sherman said. “Guys doing their job. It’s not wondering who is going to bust this week or who is going to make a mistake. It’s knowing that guys are going to play, at the bare minimum they are going to do their job. And a lot of times, in this defense, that’s good enough.”

[RELATED: 'Us Against The World' vs Rams]

Sherman has been an on-field coach for the 49ers young secondary and an advocate for them through challenging times. Defensive back Greg Mabin said that Sherman spoke to him after the Packers game. 

“He talked with me a little bit, and it definitely helped my mindset at the time, and right now, it still hurts,” Mabin said. “But I’m just happy that I have a chance to go out there and practice today, and have a chance to improve.”

Sherman will likely keep his message the same, coaching the young members of his position to become as consistent as he is. 

“It’s just being where you’re supposed to be, when you’re supposed to be there and doing that for 60, 70, 80 plays.”