TE George Kittle
While the offense struggled pretty mightily on Sunday, it wasn’t a complete disaster, with Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle coming out of his preseason hibernation to lead the team as a receiver with eight catches for 54 yards.
It could have been an even bigger day for Kittle, had the penalties not reared their ugly heads, as he had not one, but two touchdowns called back for penalties — first on a shaky offensive pass-interference call on fullback Kyle Juszczyk, then later on an illegal-formation call on right tackle Mike McGlinchey.
With the ball in his hands, whether the yards counted or not, Kittle looked himself, proving to be a reliable target for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo when called upon.
He’s going to need help from the rest of the receivers, however, who, outside of flashes from wideouts Deebo Samuel and Richie James, were non-existent — something that can’t continue if the 49ers expect to compete among the top teams in the NFL.
LB Kwon Alexander
Including the former Buccaneer here is something I wouldn’t have considered if he’d not been ejected early in the game for a hit on Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, as he was off to a great start, recording three tackles in the first quarter. He might have been in the top three somewhere if he’d stayed in the game.
However, given his early exit from the contest, it felt important to note linebacker Kwon Alexander looked primed to be one the leaders of this defense, and was its emotional and physical spark plug while on the field.
Unfortunately he was removed from the game — technically correct, I suppose, but proved later to be maybe a little quarterback-centric — and so was his energy for the rest of the half.
The defense recovered, but it would have been nice to see Alexander out there for an entire game and see what impact he’d have.