The 49ers concluded Thursday’s practice with Arik Armstead still resting up an injury and rookie Jullian Taylor taking some snaps with the first team in his place. By all accounts, Taylor has been getting praise, with Kyle Shanahan saying it was the plan regardless and that he’s earned it after his performance with the third team.
Even with the first team, there hasn’t been anything negative about Jullian Taylor, and for a rookie, that’s probably a positive. But what’s even more positive than Taylor’s play is 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh describing what he likes in the defensive lineman. Speaking on it during his press conference on Thursday’s practice, Saleh went into detail on what he liked out of Taylor so far.
He brings an awesome mindset of physicality, violence, and effort. The guy’s got unbelievable strain in his game. He’s got a very, very long way to go. I know there’s a lot of love out there for him—and he’s doing a great job—but he’s got a long way to go to learn how to use his hands, to keep separation while maintaining his violence, but he does a very good job playing with that relentlessness that we look for. He embodies the style of play that we try to represent. Big men who play as relentless as he does and as violent as he does, they’re hard to block no matter what their technique is.
I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing Saleh talk about a player’s violence. The 49ers spent a seventh round pick on Taylor in the 2018 NFL draft and at the time, there were plenty of eye rolls given the talent they have at the position. Obviously, Saleh thinks that Taylor has a long ways to go, saying the task of bringing everything together is, “a work in progress.”
If Armstead is out, being on the first team to help his development may work out much more than if he played with the third team. Meaning even if he’s sent back to the second/third teams to finish out his training camp, he can carry some of the experience over in his development, similar to C.J. Beathard getting some starts at quarterback last year and then taking the sidelines for Jimmy Garoppolo.
For now, given Armstead’s sidelining and Taylor holding his own (for a rookie) the 49ers may have found a diamond in the rough as long as they can keep this development. Especially at this late in the draft.