The San Francisco 49ers amassed a grand total of 2911 passing yards in 16 games a season ago, enough to land them dead last in the NFL.
Two days into training camp, a pair of receivers have made a case for themselves to improve on that total by taking advantage of every opportunity thrown their — way both figuratively and literally. The two culprits: Marquise Goodwin and Trent Taylor, who each hope to make the 49ers 53-man roster for the first time in their careers.
For Goodwin, 2017 will mark his fifth year in the league. The former Buffalo Bill was acquired by San Francisco via free agency in March and has made a career on his olympic-caliber speed and sure-handed ability.
Taylor, on the other hand, comes into camp as a fifth-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft out of Louisiana Tech. In 2016, the five-foot-nine Tennessee native hauled in 136 receptions and for 1803 yards over 14 games.
Although both players come from remarkably different backgrounds and have distinctly opposing skill sets, they do have one thing in common: both can move the chains on offense.
This fact became clear on Saturday as each compiled highlight-reel quality plays throughout the afternoon.
In unfamiliar fashion, relative to recent 49er offense, Goodwin made the play of the day by utilizing his speed to score on a “go” route down the sidelines from first-string quarterback, Brian Hoyer. Goodwin turned on the jets and pulled away from cornerback, Rashard Robinson.
Robinson commented on Goodwin’s speed after practice:
“Me and him out there running is like a track meet almost. … He’s not pretty fast, he is fast.”
Goodwin followed up his heroics with several additional shorter-range receptions from Hoyer, as he took the majority of his reps with the offensive first-team. But his statement was made early with the homerun play over Robinson.
Moving towards the middle of the field, Kyle Shanahan and the rest of the 49ers coaching staff got a good look at Taylor, who may very well be a starting slot receiver by the end of camp.
Snagging seven receptions on the day, Taylor caught more passes than any other receiver on the training camp roster. Though nearly all of them came in the short-to-intermediate range, Taylor demonstrated the qualities necessary to potentially be in the running for the team’s third receiving role.
Shanahan touched on Taylor’s production in the slot but was reluctant to make any presumptions regarding who will make the team at that position.
“There’s only so many guys who can make the team and sometimes slot guys are wired differently than guys who play outside. Sometimes you have slot guys who can do both. Sometimes a guy can really only make the team as a slot player… It depends on what you’re looking for, how your four, five or six guys are grouped together. You’d love all six guys to be able to play all three positions but it rarely works out that way.”
By having a strong outing on Saturday, Taylor has started his camp on the right foot. But, from the sounds of things, it may take a bit more to secure his spot as a sure-fire starter.
Looking ahead, the team is scheduled to have their first padded practice Sunday. A few hours of full contact will surely shed more light on positions battles containing high levels of competition and some expect the physicality to show some everyone’s true colors.
11-year veteran and newcomer to the team Elvis Dumervil addressed that precise sentiment:
“It will separate the men from the t-shirt guys.”