As a rookie in 2017, Trent Taylor was an exciting receiver. The 5-foot-8 fifth-round pick out of Louisiana Tech found a home as the 49ers’ top slot option and caught 43 passes – on just 60 targets – for 430 yards and two touchdowns.
Taylor also earned a role as the team’s top punt returner.
But in 2018, Taylor wasn’t the same player.
He caught just 26 passes for 215 yards and his touches and production as a punt returner fell off, too.
Now, Taylor is just happy to have his second NFL season over. He now acknowledges that, because of an injury, he wasn’t the same player and his biggest weapon – quickness – was limited.
Taylor suffered a pinched nerve in his lower back in 2017, and surgery was necessary to fix the problem. Taylor said in a recent radio interview at the Super Bowl in Atlanta that the surgery and rehab were more serious than he anticipated.
“Coming back from that, my game is my quickness, how quick my feet are, so trying to build myself back from that, it was not easy,” he said. “It was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.
“I’ve never had a huge injury like that before, so I just thought I was going to go back on the field and be back to normal. It was a lot longer process than I wanted it to be and it was just a rough season. As the season went on, I just kept going at it, kept working harder and harder, and that’s why I’m really looking forward to this offseason right now. … It’s time to get back to work, honestly.”
When Taylor does get into the swing of this offseason program, he’ll be working with a new coach who had a similar skill set, ex-Patriots star Wes Welker. Welker, 5-foot-9, used his quickness and route-running ability to become a top slot receiver during his long career. Taylor could flourish under Welker’s direction in 2019.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan said late this past season that he believes Taylor will be back to his 2017 form this season.
"I know it hasn't been the same this year," Shanahan said in December. "He's been disappointed with that. But I don't think it's been his fault. Hopefully, he can get healthier this offseason. If he does, he's a very good player."