Trent Taylor might finally be back. As a rookie in 2017, he was becoming Mr. Third Down, a reliable catcher to move the sticks for Jimmy Garoppolo. In 2018, Taylor had back surgery. At first it was seen as minor, but it cut into Taylor’s production and left him with a very disappointing season. He played in 14 games (one game less than his 2017 total), starting in none and had only 215 receiving yards and one touchdown, exactly half of what he did in the same categories in 2017.
He’s been getting a lot of praise from the coaches and the locker room. Jimmy Garoppolo had some praise for his return:
“Yeah, definitely. Trent’s so savvy. It’s awesome having a guy like that in the slot. He feels space differently than most guys. He knows his strengths and he knows his weaknesses and he’s going to do everything he can to make those weaknesses better. And he doesn’t’ have many of them, but it’s just, when you have a guy like that it makes my job very easy.”
Kyle Shanahan had a lengthy response on Taylor’s obstacles from 2019 also:
“Yeah, I mean, Trent, it was so hard for Trent last year just because he was battling that back thing all of last offseason, so he missed a whole offseason of working out, which is a huge deal. I mean, it was the same thing that happened to [CB Richard Sherman] Sherm last year, and Trent spent his whole time away healthy. He had no setbacks with his back, so we could see the first day he got back here when he ran routes that he was feeling better. Each day, he’s been able to stack those days up of trying to get better, not just trying to get his back to feel better. Now Trent is right back to where we expected him to be after his rookie year. He had a good rookie year, but we expected him to come back better. We still thought he needed to improve in a number of ways after his rookie year, and when he came back, he just came back hurt. That was tough, and he took a step back. We expect him to get back to his rookie year and we expect him to be better. And he’s on his way to doing that right now.”
It’s not just the 49ers. Those covering training camp are noticing as well. ESPN’s 49ers writer Nick Wagoner has Taylor listed as the 49ers surprise offseason standout from OTAS:
Maybe it shouldn’t be thought of as a surprise considering the success Taylor had with QB Jimmy Garoppolo at the end of 2017, when he caught 17 of the final 20 passes thrown his way. But a back injury slowed Taylor in 2018 and his production was cut in half. Now he’s another year removed from the back issue and looks healthy, but he faces more competition for the slot receiver job. With new receivers coach Wes Welker showing him the ropes, don’t be surprised if Taylor regains his rookie form and takes a step forward into an expanded role in 2019.
Trent Taylor will be looking to build on both his seasons, and hopefully not halve his stats yet again in 2019. There is some added competition to the slot, but Taylor’s ceiling has flashed several times in his short career. Pairing him with Wes Welker, 49ers wide receivers coach, may have been a match made in heaven to help him develop further.
That back injury was disappointing, but it looks like it will claim just a season of what is a promising career.