Anyone that watched San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Trent Taylor play in the 2017 and 2018 seasons knows exactly how important he can be to an offense.
Taylor boasts a dangerous combination of quickness and sticky hands, the perfect pairing for a slot receiver, and it showed in Taylor’s first two years in the league, although the stats don’t necessarily do respect to the importance the former Louisiana Tech receiver can have in 2020.
One thing that is for certain is how hard Taylor is working towards the 2020 season. All throughout the offseason, videos have been posted of the 26-year-old putting in hard work alongside 49ers players like tight end George Kittle and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Taylor suffered a jones fracture shortly before the 2019 season, the same injury that fellow wide receiver Deebo Samuel suffered a few weeks back, and suffered several setbacks, requiring five different foot surgeries to get healthy.
Seeing Taylor active and seemingly as quick as he was before the injury is only a positive, especially in the context of Samuel’s similar injury as well as WR Richie James Jr.’s broken wrist. However, in some ways, injuries to his fellow receivers don’t actually affect Taylor’s return.
Die-hard Niner with something to say? Join our community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook!
Taylor’s Fit in the Offense
While Samuel and other receivers occasionally line up in the slot depending on head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offensive schemes, Taylor is the most classic archetype of receiver for those shorter, consistent yardage routes.
It’s interesting, because while players like Kittle and Samuel are known for being able to win in short and long-yardage scenarios, Taylor provides something valuable in the 49ers’ offense and in the modern-day NFL: consistent chunks through the passing game.
While the 49ers’ offense performed up to expectation in 2020, one of the few valid complaints would be rooted in inconsistency. Every offense goes hot and cold, and San Francisco is no different.
Truly great offenses are separated by that consistency, which requires a variety of tools. The classic idea of offensive balance is the running game setting up deeper gains through passing, but the reality is that offensive balance also requires the things in between, like short passing.
Luckily for the 49ers, Taylor and Garoppolo are pretty good at providing that.
Garoppolo and Taylor’s Chemistry
Considering they’ve been on the same roster for three years, the fact that Taylor and Garoppolo have only linked up for a total of 26 completions is somewhat bewildering, but injuries can make that kind of thing happen.
Why fans of the 49ers should be optimistic though is that those 26 completions have come on just 35 attempts, meaning that Taylor is hauling in a catch 74.2 percent of the time. When you then factor in that Taylor, in general, averages 9.3 yards per catch, it shows exactly how prominent their connection can be in 2020.
With receivers like Brandon Aiyuk adding more vertical quality to the 49ers, it should only help open up the underneath space for Taylor. Teams certainly can’t allow Aiyuk, Samuel or WR Kendrick Bourne Jr. to run rampant in the deep passing game, and having to ensure they don’t will mean that Taylor will get plenty of tantalizing matchups out of the slot.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.