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What are the 49ers getting in Jamar Taylor?

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We took a look at Taylor’s 2019 targets with Seattle to get an idea of what he brings to the table in San Francisco

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers signed cornerback Jamar Taylor Monday after cornerback Teez Tabor, who suffered a Jones fracture while participating in a virtual workout and already had surgery. My initial reaction was Taylor would replace D.J. Reed, who sustained a torn pectoral muscle and will likely miss significant time. Now that Taylor is a member of the Niners, what can we expect to see in 2020?

I made a choppy video that had all of Taylor’s targets when he played with the Seahawks in 2019. I compared Taylor, who was strictly a slot cornerback, to 49ers slot cornerback K’Waun Williams. Early on during this “study,” I thought Taylor could challenge Williams as Taylor’s man-to-man skills looked on par or better than K’Waun. That is quite a compliment as Williams is thought of as one of the better nickel cornerbacks in the NFL. The more I watched, the more I came away thinking Taylor isn’t in Williams’s league.

The numbers aren’t kind

Taylor was targeted 33 times with Seattle. He gave up 20 receptions for 246 yards, 15 first downs, and one touchdown. His success rate was 45%. Taylor also gave up two explosive passing plays. The numbers weren’t flattering by any means. To Taylor’s credit, he’s playing one of the toughest positions in the NFL. For example, he gave up a 15-yard screen against Larry Fitzgerald towards the end of the game, which didn’t significantly impact the outcome. Against the Browns, Taylor gave up a 10-yard gain after Baker Mayfield scrambled for eight seconds. A few of the receptions Taylor gave up came near the end of the game as well.

Completion percentage when targeted and success rate still doesn’t tell the entire story. A player, especially at this position, can be beaten in coverage—but the wideout can drop it, quarterback overthrows it, etc.—and that allows for your stats to be skewed. When I chart cornerbacks, I use three different “coverages” to determine what happened. “Shut down,” “in position,” and “blown.” When you have a “shut down” coverage, you’re all over the wideout, and there has to be a miraculous throw or catch for a completion. “In position” means that you are within arm’s length of the receiver, while a “blown” coverage means you are further than an arm’s length away from the receiver and cannot make a play on the ball.

Taylor registered 20 “blown” coverages, 10 in position, and three shut down coverages. Twenty is...a lot. The incompletions that he forced showed plenty of promise, but when Taylor was beaten, he was beaten pretty badly. Take Week 10, for example. Kendrick Bourne beat Taylor for a couple of first downs as well as a touchdown. Marquise Goodwin shook free for a play.

PFF’s 39.0 grade seems harsh, but they probably aren’t too far off. Seattle blitzed Taylor quite a bit, and he rarely got home. That was the biggest difference between him and K’Waun. Williams is an amazing blitzer, tackler, and run supporter. I didn’t get that from Taylor.

Outlook

Taylor’s numbers aren’t kind, but Seattle’s fundamental structure is laughably bad on defense. They don’t put their second-level defenders in positions to succeed. Add that into the fact the Seahawks don’t have a pass rush, and it’s no surprise to see that defense struggle. You’re going to look better than you are with the Niners pass rush, so Taylor has a chance if he makes the roster. I think he could play man coverage if the 49ers needed him to, but Taylor’s zone instincts and physicality are lacking. If healthy, I’m not sure he’d beat out D.J. Reed.