49ers: Training Camp Battles; What we Know so far Featuring “the D- Line”

As you know, training camp is in full go and week one is in the books, and what a week it’s been, especially for the defense. Now sit back as we venture off into week two, get comfortable, and relive the past week and a half as if you were there, with a heavy dose of Niners Live flavor.

 

Solomon Thomas officially arrived and he signed his contract about 20 minutes into the start of camp on Friday July 28th. Thomas didn’t officially get to work out with the team until the next day, but when he did, he began to show why he was the first pick of the 49ers in the 2017 draft. If you recall, Niners Live previously discussed the importance of Solomon Thomas in 49ers: Familiarity: DC Robert Saleh Needs a Violent Disruptor, “Solomon Thomas” and detailed his versatility, playing on the edge as well as inside.

Updated injury report

Thomas is already leaving his fingerprints on camp, batting down balls at the line of scrimmage and making a living in the backfield. He’s also recorded a few sacks thus far. Per reports, he’s looking dominant, just as the reputation that precedes him in both team and individual drills. Although Robert Saleh didn’t oversell Thomas, he did have this to say about the rookie defensive lineman, “Solomon is starting to show up,” (team website). To continue his impressive play, Thomas added a sack and a run stop in Monday’s practice. 

Latest team transactions

Aaron Lynch showed up to camp much lighter, dropping 30 lbs. in terms of weight, but it seems the 30 lbs. he lost in weight, he found double that in effort and work ethic. Lynch had this to say about his weight loss. “Thirty pounds will do a big difference in anybody’s body, I feel a lot better coming off the ball. I have a lot more wind. I’m not as tired as I used to be. Definitely a change” (team website). 

Niners Live recently challenged Lynch in the article San Francisco 49ers: Does Aaron Lynch Want to be Great? So far, it would appear he’s up for the challenge and here to show he indeed wants to be great. That only bodes well for both himself, and this new look 49ers defense as a unit. Thus far, Lynch has made multiple appearances and plays in the backfield, has collected four sacks, and even an interception returned for a touchdown off a tipped pass as seen in the video clip.

Unofficial team depth chart

He also added two more pass break ups at the line of scrimmage to his stat count Monday after missing a couple days with the birth of his son.. He’s much more explosive, disruptive, and active around the line of scrimmage in his new role. Welcome back.

Arik Armstead, with a healthy and new, improved physique has also showed up and shown out, already recording four sacks since camp started. From the looks of it, Armstead is determined not only to show his value to this 49ers defense, but also show he can be a standout LEO, regardless of standing 6’7, much taller than most those that play LEO as Niners Live previously discussed in 49ers: Don’t Sleep on Arik Armstead Taking Over as the “LEO, Pass-Rusher”. Not to be left out of the versatile conversation, Armstead has also lined up inside at the 3 technique as well.

Ronald Blair has gotten off to a good start making a home in the backfield and also returning an interception for a would be interception return for a touchdown so far. Blair has hit the ground running as he looks to meet and exceed expectations as Niners Live highlighted in 49ers: How Ronald Blair can Best be Utilized by DC Robert Saleh. From the looks of it, Blair is eager to show the world how he can be best utilized by defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

Elvis Dumervil, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan, has proven a valuable addition to the 49ers defense as the first year head coach had this to say about Dumervil, “Elvis has got a lot of length,” Shanahan said. “He comes off the ball hard. He’s a pro. He works hard every single play. I’ve never worked with him before. I know a lot of people who have. I’ve gone against him a number of times and he’s exactly as advertised” (team website).

Earl Mitchell has shown why he was added as a veteran in the offseason. He has looked quite dominant thus far getting a good push, making plays frequently in the backfield, and pushing the man lined up in front of him backwards causing congestion, and with force.

D. J. Jones, while getting limited reps, has shown he is a powerful and promising rookie with plenty upside so far in camp. He’s looked impressive, showing this athleticism in individual and team drills alike. As Niners Live discussed in 49ers: Fearless Predictions: Why DT D.J. Jones will be a Key Cog on Defense, Jones is proving to be a force as a sixth round pick (steal alert) on this 49ers defense when he sees the field.

Jones has most importantly made a great impression on defensive coordinator Robert Salah, as he had this to say about Jones when he addressed the media, “He’s been doing very well,” Saleh said. “He’s showing a lot of the stuff that he showed in college. He’s showing that the game’s not too big for him. He needs to continue to work on his fundamentals and the things that we’re asking him to do, but from a strength standpoint, the effort, the strength, he’s got all those tools” (team website).

Chris Jones has continued to show he too can make plays as he had a pretty good camp and even filled in for DeForest Buckner as he left practice early Wednesday (day five) with an ankle injury. While it doesn’t seem to be serious, the depth and competition on this defense is stout and hungry for playing time, so every snap counts for every player. So you can bet on Jones and any other player to seize each moment and embrace every opportunity to raise their stock.  Look for Jones to continue to validate the case made for him in a recent Niners Live article titled, Looking at Chris Jones’ role within DC Robert Saleh’s 4-3 Under Scheme.

Tank Carradine has been working (and improving) in silence thus far in camp, a flash or two, but nothing to rave about. That is until Saturdays open practice when he made his presence felt through his pads as he came flying for across the field at his big end position, and smooth (temporarily) knocked the wind and motivation out of Kapri Bibbs, sending him to the ground, about five yards from where the violent collision happened as seen in the video clip.

The hit not only sent Bibbs to the ground in a hurry, halting his forward progress, but it also sent him to the sidelines. Tank looked every bit of his name on the hit. Wow! He also added a sack to his stat sheet during the open practice, and Niners Live was in attendance, live direct to witness it all first hand. It was one of those rewind the play type moments, you know one of those make the crowd say, “oooooohh” moments that make you ball up your fist and put it over your mouth. Luckily, Niners Live was there to see and participate in the moment right along with the crowd, so no need for a remote. The hit was if Tank wanted to say to the crowd and 49ers faithful, “Remember me?”

Recent article alert: Injuries are Part of the Game; Opportunity Knocks; Next Man Up

As always, keep your eyes wide open, 49er fans. Niners Live will be watching with you. #eyeswideopen and often imitated but never duplicated… Go Niners.

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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.comPro Football Focus49ers.comESPN.comNFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Kevin Mitchell Staff Writer at Niners Live and Co-Author, Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims.