George Kittle: 3 reasons 49ers TE is off to a slow start in 2021

George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports /

49ers tight end George Kittle has yet to have a prolific game this season, yet there are reasons why he’s off to what might be considered a slowish start.

If the San Francisco 49ers are going to right their offensive woes this season, All-Pro tight end George Kittle has to be a primary reason why.

There’s no questioning Kittle should be listed among the three best tight ends in the league right now. Yet the overall numbers from him over the first four weeks of the season aren’t necessarily impressive.

Especially considering how vital he is to head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

George Kittle 2021 Games Table
Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece
Week Tm Opp Result Tgt Rec Yds Y/R TD Ctch% Y/Tgt
1 SFO @ DET W 41-33 5 4 78 19.50 0 80.0% 15.60
2 SFO @ PHI W 17-11 4 4 17 4.25 0 100.0% 4.25
3 SFO GNB L 28-30 9 7 92 13.14 0 77.8% 10.22
4 SFO SEA L 21-28 10 4 40 10.00 0 40.0% 4.00

Provided by
Generated 10/7/2021.

Kittle has yet to find the end zone this season. And while he hasn’t always been a prime scoring threat over his otherwise prolific career, the fact he has just 227 receiving yards this season, fourth most among tight ends so far, is a bit concerning.

Especially when one factors in how that would extrapolate to just 965 receiving yards over a full 17-game season: good for a mid-level tight end but not someone viewed as one of the biggest offensive threats in the NFL right now. And if one looks at the metrics, Football Outsiders actually ranks Kittle 45th in terms of their DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) metric.

However, there are legitimate reasons why Kittle hasn’t gotten off to a rocket-like start.

Let’s explore three of those.