49ers notes: Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas compete for same role

Matt Maiocco
NBC Sports BayArea

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers have a dilemma, but it's also can be seen as a good problem.

While there are legitimate questions about the team's outside pass rush, the organization feels good about its ability to line up some strong players on the inside during passing downs.

DeForest Buckner could be ready to take the next step to become one of the NFL's top interior defensive linemen. That leaves the 49ers' two other recent first-round draft picks, Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas, competing for the other inside spot in nickel situations.

"Those are our three best inside rushers," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said on "49ers Game Plan," which airs Saturday on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3) at 7 p.m.

"That's where those three excel the most, and you can only have two inside rushers. Buck has been leading the way. He's been our bell cow. I think he's shown that he deserves that and will continue to do that. Those are three pretty good players, and all three will be rotated on those situations.

In Week 1, Buckner recorded 2 ½ sacks while being on the field for 54 defensive plays against the Minnesota Vikings. Armstead had a productive game, as he played 59 snaps.

"Now that I'm healthy and playing, I know what I'm capable of doing," Armstead said.

The odd-person out in the 49ers' rotation during the first game was Thomas, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 draft. He played just 35 snaps, and committed a major blunder when he jumped offside as the Vikings had no intention of running a fourth-down play late in the game.

Thomas starts at defensive end, and he will soon get his chance as an inside rusher on third downs, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh promised. Edge rusher Cassius Marsh moves to an end position on passing downs.

"He'll get run on third down," Saleh said of Thomas. "He's not dead at all in that regard.

"He'll still play base downs outside. Trying to find opportunities for him to rush inside on obvious passing situations. He'll get some action hopefully this week against Detroit."

Sign of the times

New York Jets linebacker Jets linebacker Darron Lee claimed his team knew the Lions' offensive signals and were "calling out plays" as quarterback Matthew Stafford approached the line of scrimmage. Stafford this week said it's standard practice to change the hand signals weekly, and that is something that is being done as the team prepares to face the 49ers.

Shanahan said he does not place much stock in a team boasting of cracking another team's code after a victory.

"I've had a number of times in my career where you lose a game and an opponent says something like that. It seems like a huge deal to everyone, but that happens all the time," Shanahan said on "49ers Game Plan."

"Yeah, you might know the signals, but it's still a guess because those signals change quarter to quarter, week to week, play to play. All they have to do is tell them to do something different in the huddle. If guys are depending on signals and going, they might get you once or twice. But if they do that consistently, that's usually a good thing for the offense because you can set them up."

This ‘n' that

Starting right guard Mike Person might not be available due to a foot strain, so undrafted rookie guard Najee Toran of UCLA would start, Shanahan announced on Friday. Toran beat out veteran Matt Tobin, whom the 49ers signed last week. Toran took part in the entire 49ers' offseason program and training camp before beginning the season on the practice squad. "Both got the reps all week, and Toran won those reps," Shanahan said. "He did the better job and I think it's a huge advantage for him that he has a lot more experience and knows what's going on. Any time you have more experience in a system and have gotten more reps, there's a huge advantage for you, and I think that's what's helped him win the spot this week." . . . Shanahan said he wishes the NFL would change its rule and allow all 53 players to be available for games. As it now stands, teams much deactivate seven players to suit up just 46 players. "I think no one will disagree with that," Shanahan said. "I think that's coaches and players and anybody who thinks about it and wants it to be easier. I wish we had more than 53." . . . Shanahan said he plans to pick three season-long captains at the middle point of the season. But he also said he likes picking three new captains to represent the team at midfield before each game.

This Sunday, be sure to watch 49ers Pregame Live at 12 p.m. and 49ers Postgame Live immediately after the game on NBC Sports Bay Area and live streaming on the NBC Sports app. Greg Papa, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Matt Maiocco and Laura Britt will have everything you need to know from the 49ers' home opener.

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