George Kittle needs to make his impact felt when 49ers play Broncos

George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /

With the 49ers hoping to get George Kittle back for Week 3 against the Broncos, the All-Pro tight end will need to make a notable impact during the game.

The San Francisco 49ers have missed tight end George Kittle over the first two games of 2022.

This isn’t just an obvious statement (of course, they’ve missed having one of their most prolific offensive weapons on the field), it’s actually a true point of emphasis, given how the Niners offense struggled in the rain during Week 1’s loss to the Chicago Bears and then went relatively quiet in the fourth quarter versus the Seattle Seahawks during Week 2.

Kittle, who suffered a groin injury prior to Week 1, has yet to take the field this season. And while he was close to being available for Week 2’s contest, the smart play was to hold him out.

Even if it did reinforce his growing reputation as an injury-prone player.

Now at 1-1, San Francisco takes to the road to face quarterback Russell Wilson and the 1-1 Denver Broncos for a prime-time Sunday Night Football bout at Empower Field at Mile High. While Denver’s offense still hasn’t clicked over two games, boasting a mere 32 points over two bouts, the Broncos defense has nevertheless been solid enough, tied with the 49ers for having the third-best scoring defense with just 26 points allowed.

A perfect context for Kittle to make his 2022 debut.

49ers will need George Kittle in a big way vs. Broncos

Rewind back to 2018 when Kittle came oh-so close to setting a single-game record for most receiving yards by a tight end, against Denver no less.

Kittle finished that matchup with seven catches for 210 yards and a touchdown. And while the context of both teams is entirely different now compared to back then, him being in a position to take over the game would be an excellent boost for a Niners offense that has been forced to revert back to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the wake of Trey Lance‘s season-ending ankle injury.

The Broncos have a solid cornerback room in boundary defenders Ronald Darby and Patrick Surtain II, and San Francisco is already familiar with nickel back K’Waun Williams, too, meaning the duo of 49ers wide receivers, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, will have a strong challenge working against them.

However, Kittle will find himself frequently matched up against strong safety Kareem Jackson, who is coming off a year in which he allowed nearly 78 percent of targets to be completed for an opposing passer rating of 113.3.

Through two games this season, Jackson has surrendered three catches on five targets.

49ers need George Kittle for the run game, too

The Niners’ rushing attack, averaging 4.5 yards so far this season, has been effective if not overly stellar. Week 1 was more problematic, especially in the rainy conditions, but it’s safe to assume Kittle’s impact in the run-blocking department would have made a bigger difference.

Denver’s run defense is also in the middle of the pack, having surrendered an average of 4.2 yards per carry. But, with San Francisco looking to deploy the age-old strategy of trying to defeat Wilson by controlling the clock and allowing him on the field as little as possible, a stout rushing attack would be a solid play.

One in which Kittle might make a notable difference.

Read More: Why 2022 season is so vital to 49ers TE George Kittle

According to Pro Football Focus, Tyler Kroft has been the 49ers’ best run-blocking tight end through two weeks, posting a solid 64.4 grade in this category. But with Kroft out for a few weeks with a knee injury, getting Kittle back at the right time should actually improve this metric by a good margin.

So, even if Kittle isn’t impacting the stat sheet in a massive way, he can still make a substantial difference in this department, too.

The Niners and Broncos kick off on Sunday, Sept. 25 at 8:20 p.m. ET.

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