The San Francisco 49ers group of wide receivers aren’t a very tall group with the average size being somewhere below six feet tall. Their position coach Mike LaFleur says it isn’t one of his concerns. There is another list of qualities that both he and Kyle Shanahan look for in their receivers. LaFleur explained to the media what he is looking for from his group.
One of the most important qualities that LaFleur mentioned multiple times was separation. If a receiver can get separation, it doesn’t matter how tall he is. That was one of the qualities that he saw in 5’8 rookie wide receiver Trent Taylor. He was one of the 81 players that LaFleur evaluated before the draft and one of the players he spent 15 minutes with at the combine.
Another quality that LaFleur looks for is toughness. It’s what Shanahan mentions when he talks about Pierre Garçon. It’s also brought up when LaFleur talks about Taylor and other receivers he has worked with like Taylor Gabriel and Justin Hardy. He says he gives them stuff to help them block bigger guys but it’s more about want to than size.
There’s no definitive No. 2 receiver in this offensive scheme because that’s not important to the staff. In Atlanta each individual player was put into a position to succeed. Sometimes Mohammed Sanu would have been considered the No. 2 behind Julio Jones but in some plays he was the No. 1. Naming receivers doesn’t really matter. LaFleur thinks Marquise Goodwin, who by many people’s standards would be considered the No. 2, is not just a speed guy. They have been seeing what he can do between the numbers where he has played very little since being in the league but he will also be seen on the outside.
In a similar grain, Jeremy Kerley, who played mostly in the slot last year, is being tested out on the outside. LaFleur likes the separation that both he and Goodwin can get. Kerley has impressed his coach thus far, living up to the reputation that Joe Staley had told LaFleur about of being a consummate professional. “He goes about his day and knows his stuff and goes out there and makes plays.”
It also doesn’t matter to LaFleur where his players are acquired. B.J. Johnson was at rookie minicamp on a tryout basis and impressed the staff so much with his size and hands that they knew they needed to find a spot for him on the roster. The Georgia Southern rookie spent a lot of time blocking in a heavy run offense. His toughness stood out on film. Gabriel and Willie Snead were also players who were found as UDFAs by LaFleur who have developed into very productive players,
The group has already developed a great working chemistry with veteran players mentoring the less experienced players. LaFleur mentioned that when he was headed over to talk to Taylor after a play, Kerley stopped him, telling him he “got him” already. Johnson walked off the field with Garçon after a practice asking questions of the veteran as well.
LaFleur says it’s his job to make the offense less complex. All of the players, including Garçon is learning as the offense has evolved since he played in it. It’s a competition that’s wide open and the staff will be watching everything. They are looking for total commitment during every play, even when players don’t have the ball in their hands. LaFleur’s update: so far, so good.