No. 1: Defensive Tackle Jullian Taylor
It was pretty telling to see KPIX’s color commentator, Tim Ryan, pump up rookie seventh-round defensive tackle Jullian Taylor throughout the 49ers’ preseason opener.
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Perhaps for good reason, though. Taylor ended up playing throughout the entire game — rare, even for a rookie — and looked excellent in the process. When it was all said and finished, the former Temple Owl had three tackles, two quarterback hits and a sack.
Not bad for a first NFL game, sort of.
Taylor has been seeing plenty of first-team reps at the 5-technique “big” end position on the strong side of San Francisco’s defensive line. It’s the spot meant to be occupied by veteran defensive tackle Arik Armstead, who is still out with a hamstring issue and has missed most of the preseason.
The Niners picked up Armstead’s fifth-year option earlier this offseason, but it won’t become fully guaranteed until the start of the NFL’s new year in spring 2019. Early indications from Taylor point to the 49ers possibly having an intriguing decision on their hands between now and then.
It’s far too soon to claim Taylor replaces Armstead at the strong-side defensive end spot, especially right away. Still, the rookie is proving to be the next seventh-round draft addition flashing plenty of promise for the 49ers right out of the gate.
Not unlike safety Adrian Colbert last year, who also benefited from fellow players’ injuries.