SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Some considered the San Francisco 49ers' first-round selection of defensive end Solomon Thomas a slap in the face of previous general manager Trent Baalke, who made similar-style players his first picks the previous two years.
Was new GM John Lynch sending a message that at least one of Baalke's premium picks was so bad, it had to be the first priority of the new regime to replace the guy?
Actually, the 49ers' new management is going out of its way at the organized team activities this spring to demonstrate that the three Pacific-12 Conference defensive standouts can coexist.
After then-coach Chip Kelly often used 2015 first-round pick Arik Armstead and 2016 first-rounder DeForest Buckner as defensive line bookends last season, new coach Kyle Shanahan has lined them up side by side at the offseason workouts as the club transitions from a 3-4 to a 4-3.
"Yeah, man. We look good coming off the bus," 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh gushed of the sun-blocking 6-foot-7, 296-pound Armstead and 6-7, 291-pound Buckner, former teammates at the University of Oregon. "They're huge."
Huge is a label that is considered complimentary to an interior lineman, not necessarily an edge rusher. But that quality is what initially attracted Baalke to Buckner, and it is already clear the new guys see the same potential.
Of course, having two proven defensive ends lining up side by side means having the ability to work them in tandem in ways most ends and tackles in the NFL cannot.
"You can be big and still not be very effective," Saleh said. "But those guys are working so hard at kind of transitioning to our style of play. And once they start understanding that, they have the ability to control the line of scrimmage. I'm excited to see them work."
Given Buckner's production last season (73 tackles, including six sacks, in 15 starts), the 49ers knew they had one end of the defensive line in good hands even before using the third overall pick on Thomas in May.
But the jury is still out on Armstead, who was unproductive as a rookie in 2015 (19 tackles, including two sacks, in 16 games) and injured a lot last season (only four starts).
No doubt, that gives Armstead more to prove this offseason.
"He moves well," Saleh said. "The concern was that he's so big and he doesn't exactly fit the prototype (of a defensive end). But he's so athletic. He's so long and he's got a good first step. He just needs to get more comfortable in the things that we're asking him to do physically."