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Rookie Trent Taylor Ready to Earn his Keep in 49ers Offense

There's no question Kyle Shanahan knows how to utilize an NFL slot receiver (insert Taylor Gabriel who led the Atlanta Falcons in touchdowns in 2016 (6)).

The San Francisco 49ers are betting that fifth-round pick Trent Taylor can make an immediate impact at the position with the release of veteran Jeremy Kerley.

Kerley led the 49ers with 64 receptions for 667 yards and three touchdowns in 2016. Despite his principle role in the 49ers offense, Kerley was unseated by the rookie following Taylor's strong showing in August.

"That was a tough call, but once we saw Trent Taylor in that slot and once we saw that Trent could handle it and handle it right away, we said it was going be hard at that point for Jeremy to make the roster," 49ers general manager John Lynch said on Saturday.

Taylor quickly earned the admiration of Shanahan after standing out during OTAs. Taylor proved to be one of the 49ers most consistent pass catchers and fared well during the preseason, catching all six of his targets for 69 yards.

"You can take that as a compliment, but I've still got a long way to go. I'm not where I want to be right now, so a lot of work is left to be done," Taylor said. "I never want to feel like I made it, because that's when you start losing it."

The rookie spent the bulk of the offseason catching passes from backup quarterback C.J. Beathard. Now as a fixture in the 49ers offense, Taylor's building his timing and chemistry with San Francisco's starting quarterback, Pierre Garçon.

"After practices, Brian would always pull me over and make sure me and him got some work together because you never know what could happen. Preparing for the situation that we're in now," Taylor said. "Great leadership on his part. Glad to have a guy like Brian leading the way for us."

The Hoyer and Taylor connection could commence as early as Sunday as San Francisco hosts the Carolina Panthers in Week 1. In preparation for Sunday, the rookie has already set his sights on working the middle of the field against Carolina's defense.

"I'm mainly looking forward to getting a piece of (Panthers defensive tackle) Vernon Butler, because he's from LA Tech," Taylor said. "That's my boy. I played with him for three years. I'm looking forward to seeing him.

"But going against guys like Luke Kuechly and all that. All the guys I've always watched on TV, it's going to be fun to finally match up against them."

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