. Solomon Thomas waited seven anxious, antsy, eager minutes to play his first NFL snap. He didn’t wait nearly as long for his first highlight.
The 49ers’ rookie defensive lineman first entered Friday’s preseason game on a third-and-6 situation in the first quarter. Ahmad Brooks flushed Chiefs quarterback Tyler Bray toward Thomas and he pounced, pressuring Bray into a bad throw that cornerback Rashard Robinson corralled in the flat and returned 30 yards.
Thomas didn’t have any gaudy statistics like a sack or a forced fumble against Kansas City. But he made plays all over the field, including at the sideline, and he showed the ever-revving motor that convinced the 49ers he was worthy of the No. 3 pick in the draft.
Thomas said he’s adjusting to two aspects of the NFL.
One is the sheer size of his opponents, including 6-foot-8 offensive tackle Trent Brown, against whom he’s often matched in practice. “You don’t get guys moving like that and who are that big in college,” Thomas said.
The other is the speed of the action, which surprised him early on.
In that area, Kyle Shanahan said he’s seen improvement from Thomas, including during Friday’s game. On one early play he thought Thomas “hesitated a little bit” on a play in which he had a shot on an opposing ballcarrier.
“I looked up again later in the next quarter and I thought he had the same look, and that’s when he had zero hesitation,” Shanahan said. “I thought he just ran right through the guy and took him to the sidelines.”
Thomas’ first NFL game looked a lot like his last ones at Stanford.
He played a little bit of everything along the defensive line, lining up at the so-called “big end” spot on running downs and moving inside to defensive tackle on passing downs. He played 28 snaps – tied for second most among 49ers defenders – and ended the game with two tackles and two quarterback hurries.
He also cured his case of nerves.
“Just playing the first game – getting it out of the way, getting the butterflies out of the way and now just going to play,” Thomas said of the most valuable part of his NFL debut. “That’s really it.”
Et cetera – Shanahan said on Saturday that the 49ers will test Jimmie Ward’s hamstring on Sunday. If the free safety passes, he could be worked into practice and perhaps play against Denver on Aug. 17. Rookie Lorenzo Jerome started at the position against the Chiefs and did “a solid job,” Shanahan said.
▪ Shanahan said neither DeForest Buckner (ankle) nor Ronald Blair (groin) would play against the Broncos. He said Buckner sprained the same ankle he injured early in training camp but that it is not believed to be a long-term issue.
▪ Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard played well in Kansas City (two touchdowns, 133 passer rating), but Shanahan stopped short of saying he would enter the Broncos game ahead of Matt Barkley. That decision, he said, will be made during the week.