From the beginning of training camp, Niners Live predicted that George Kittle would win the starting tight end job and could be the second coming of Vernon Davis. Now we assess his performance through the first 5 games and show you why he still has some work to do.
The Hard Truth
The first five games of George Kittle’s NFL career have been a bit underwhelming, to say the least. Niners Live previously talked about all the 5th round draft pick could become, given his size, speed and the match-up problems he gives linebackers and safeties alike. Yet, the statistics show that hasn’t materialized for the most part. Kittle has had at least 1 drop in every game this season, and for much of it, has been a non-factor. According to Pro Football Focus, coming into Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts, Kittle’s overall performance received a grade of 39.2 receiving and 46.1 out of 100. In the Kyle Shanahan offensive system, having a do-it-all tight end, is key to the team’s success. To be fair, Kittle did have his best game on Sunday; with 7 catches on 9 targets for 83 yards and a touchdown. Still, Kittle did have receptions where he failed to turn up field, as well as two drops. All of which can be classified under: Room for improvement.
Blocking is Something Left to be Desired
A short time ago, Niners Live spoke about how coming from a BIG-10 school like Iowa, blocking was something George Kittle relished, but once again the numbers do not support this theory. Five weeks into the season, Kittle is among the bottom in terms of both run blocking and pass blocking among the three tight ends. According to Pro Football Focus, through the first four games of the season; Kittle scored a 39.0 in pass blocking compared to that of Garrett Celek’s team-best, 68.1. That’s primarily because Kittle is used more as a primary pass catcher. The run blocking tells a much bleaker story. Kittle received a pitiful score of 44.4 through the first four games from Pro Football Focus. Logan Paulsen, (the run blocking specialist), received a score of 73.1 and Garrett Celek who was all but cut from the team during training camp, received a team-best 76.5 score. Again, not the kind of effort you would expect from the team’s #1 tight end.
The Bottom Line Is
The good news for George Kittle and for the 49ers is, he still has 11 more games to get his timing down. With three more division games and opponents like Jacksonville, Houston and Philadelphia left on the schedule, we will see how Kittle stacks up against some of the better defenses in the NFL. If Kittle can display a more focused and consistent game, it will say a lot about the future development of the 49ers Offense. However, just like with every position, Kittle can be replaced, and Garrett Celek is a veteran with a chip on his shoulder, waiting for that chance. Wouldn’t it be something if Kittle had a breakout game against the Washington Redskins, with former 49ers All-Pro Vernon Davis watching from the opposing sideline? Like it or not, that is the standard the 49er Faithful will hold him to. Niners Live will be watching, whatever the case may be.
Please join us again soon on Niners Live, the home of the faithful fan and analyst from an objective/analytical lens, of course.
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author and new Staff Writer @NinersLive.net, David Edmondson. Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims