49ers roster: 5 players who must step up with Deebo Samuel out

Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /
5 of 5
George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

No. 1: 49ers Tight End George Kittle

There are plenty of reasons why All-Pro tight end George Kittle isn’t having the same kind of impactful season as fans are accustomed to, at least not in the stats department.

Injuries played a role, yes. But over the course of eight games played in 2021, Kittle has just 35 receptions for 425 yards and three touchdowns, putting him on pace for his second sub-1,000-yard season in a row.

On top of that, Kittle has been relatively quiet in the yardage department the last two weeks, too, boasting just 34 receiving yards at Jacksonville before getting just one catch for 13 yards against the Vikings.

No one will take away Kittle’s importance on offense, both as a lead blocker and as a receiving decoy. But with Deebo Samuel out of the lineup, it’s highly likely opposing defenses are now going to fully hone in on Kittle as the 49ers’ No. 1 receiving threat over the next week or so. And even though Brandon Aiyuk will be a key X-factor, Kittle also has to step up and emerge as the go-to option for Jimmy Garoppolo through the air.

Particularly in those crucial red-zone situations where the Niners have the league’s best touchdown percentage of 77.4.

Next. 49ers' 5 best standout studs from Week 12 win over Vikings. dark