Jullian Taylor has been with the 49ers since he was drafted in the seventh round in 2018, but in two seasons he’s played just nine games and had zero starts.
The 6-foot-5, 280-pounder out of Temple is a spare part on the defensive line, able to fill in for injuries and depth, but waiting for his chance to earn a larger role.
On Sunday, in the 49ers’ muddy 9-0 victory at Washington, Taylor made his strongest statement yet that he deserves more opportunities to play.
In just his third game this season – and first since the win over the Bengals Sept. 15 – Taylor got a chance to play because of a hamstring injury to D.J. Jones.
He made some key plays for what is becoming one of the NFL’s best and deepest defensive units in helping San Francisco to its sixth straight victory to start this season.
In the second quarter, Taylor made a stop on Washington running back Adrian Peterson to smother a fourth-and-1 play, then later scooped up a loose ball when linebacker Kwon Alexander forced Peterson to fumble.
After the game, head coach Kyle Shanahan and Taylor’s defensive teammates praised his contributions and said Taylor is yet another example of the complete effort being delivered each week by the defense. While stars such as Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Richard Sherman and Fred Warner make large contributions every week, role players also are making huge plays each game.
"It tells me we have a tremendous amount of depth," Sherman told Chris Biderman of the Sacramento Bee. "Jullian is a great player and came through in a crucial situation, played in the clutch. That’s what you need on a great team. You need guys to always stay ready."
Shanahan says coaches have confidence in Taylor.
"He never knows each week whether he’s going to be up or not," said Shanahan. "It’s based on other positions and how we’re going to play that game. It was a huge turning point getting that turnover (fumble)."
Shanahan joked he was going to give Taylor a game ball, "but he didn’t score."
Taylor shared snaps at nose tackle with Solomon Thomas and filled the shoes of Jones, who had a big game the previous week in a victory over the Rams. It’s uncertain how long Jones will be out.
The 6-0 49ers return to action this coming Sunday against the 4-2 Carolina Panthers at Levi’s Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1:05 p.m.