San Francisco 49ers wide receiver coach Wes Welker recently joined Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports to talk about some of the receivers on the team and what their roles will be for the 49ers this upcoming season. After the final OTA practice, Welker also gave his first impressions of the 49ers wide receivers.
Welker mentioned how it was relatable from a physical standpoint to work with a guy like Trent Taylor. Some have suggested that Taylor is on the roster bubble. While that may be true, it sounds like Taylor is a favorite of Welker’s.
”Trent’s been really fun to coach. That’s probably the easiest guy for me to coach. Not only because of his skill set, but he understands the game, understands space, and all those different things. He’s been healthy this whole spring, which has really helped him. He’s been doing a great job, and I’m really excited to be coaching him. It’s been really cool.”
Something that stood out when Welker was talking about Taylor was the fact that he mentioned healthy twice. Availability could be the determining factor for one of the final receiver spots.
A significant portion of the draft community labeled Deebo Samuel as strictly a slot receiver. Welker sees things differently.
”I think he’s a guy that he can play inside or outside. He’s definitely a bigger body, but he does have good quickness and speed and all those different things. If he does want to play in the slot, he’s going to have to lose a few pounds, so that’s something we’re working on now, and he’s working hard to do it. We’re going to keep on harping on him to do that. He’s had a great attitude about just going to keep working on it.”
One of the areas I thought Deebo could improve was at the top of his routes. He took too many steps getting in and out of his breaks, and that overshadowed his quickness. Welker touched on that topic as well:
”I love his size, and I love his physicality and everything, but we’re still going to want to be able to use him on some of those plays where you really want him to get in and out of those breaks. The lighter you are when you’re doing that, the better off you’re going to be.”
Samuel weighed in at 214 pounds at the combine. I’m going to attempt to see if Welker asked him to drop a specific amount next week at the 49ers mandatory minicamp.
Mental hurdle going over the middle
Welker was asked how he could help the receivers, and tight ends(Garrett Celek’s concussion was referenced) overcome the mental obstacle of going over the middle. The reporter pointed out how last year it looked like Dante Pettis was a bit timid when he was crossing the middle of the field.
Welker said that he watched each situation Pettis was in, and couldn’t blame him for the positions he was put in.
”For him, it’s more of a mindset, and you have to have the mindset that you’re indestructible. Even though you’re not, in your mind, you have to have that feeling within yourself that I’m going to run through this ball, and run through this catch. Your mentality when you’re on that field has to be that way or it’s never going to be as clean as you want it to be.”
Welker stressed how the game has changed since he retired and teams can no longer hit you in the way that they could a few years back.
Putting Pettis in harm’s way?
Welker was asked if Pettis would return punts even though he is the teams starting receiver. The reporter cited how most coaches wouldn’t allow that. To me, it’s a no brainer. If Pettis gives you the best chance at scoring, you give him the ball every chance you get.
Dante Pettis had 9 career punt returns in college that went for a TD.— Niners Nation (@NinersNation) June 5, 2019
The 49ers had the worst starting field position in 2018 by a full yard.
Make it happen. https://t.co/RDkmJ9fYxc pic.twitter.com/kMKUsU5S2q
Pettis showed that he could be a special returner in college. The holdup with putting Pettis as a returner is for the injury concern. You can get hurt in about every scenario imaginable in this sport. That’s the wrong way to look at this situation. It should be as simple as if Pettis gives you the best chance to increase the likelihood of your offense scoring; he’s the punt returner. Plenty of teams have put their best player as a returner over the years. Shoot, the Minnesota Vikings would put Adrian Peterson back to return in critical situations.
Here’s Welker on the idea of Pettis as a returner:
”My stance is we’re trying to win. Special teams is such a big aspect of the game that I want whoever is out there is going to help us win the game. Coming into the league as a free agent and basically making it because of special teams, I know how important special teams is. All those yards they matter. You do run the risk of getting guys injured, but that’s every offensive play as well. We have to put ourselves in the best positions to win.”
Welker was asked if he’s studied Pettis as a returner:
”Absolutely. He broke my record. I had to. He was fun to watch. It was weird to watch his body movements, just because he has that gumby-style to him. Just being able to accelerate and stick his foot in the ground and do all these funky moves, like bend and twist his body. I was definitely a fan of his.”
Welker mentioned that he learned how important special teams were when he was in New England. He made it sound like there will be a heavy emphasis on special teams as a whole. He also added that Pettis being able to move in such a unique way allows him to be such a gifted route runner.
How’s Hurd doing?
Hurd hasn’t been able to get many reps due to being banged up, but that doesn’t mean Hurd still can’t learn. Here’s Welker on the 49ers third-round pick:
”He’s been a little banged up this spring, so it’s been about the mental part for him. He’s missing out on a lot of reps out there right now, and he’s just got to get his body right and then, on top of that, just staying on top of the playbook because he’s not getting all those reps.”
Watching from the sidelines has to be frustrating for Hurd. You know he wants to be out there with the rest of his teammates. Tackling the mental part of the game is just as important in football, especially for rookies. Hurd learning the ins and outs of the playbook and taking mental reps every day will be a big part of his development.
You could almost sense the frustration in Welker’s voice that Hurd isn’t out there.
”With his size and athleticism of being able to play running back, being able to play wide receiver, being able to do a lot of different things, that’s a great matchup for us. Losing these reps and the different things we want to do with him kind of sets him back. So he’s got a lot of making up to and a lot of work ahead of him to get caught up.”
A minor setback for Hurd. I’m excited to see him in training camp.