The 49ers tried getting the ball to George Kittle a bit more in Week 5, but the All-Pro should be an even bigger focal point in the forthcoming weeks.
This might be a revelation to some, but San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle hasn’t been head coach Kyle Shanahan’s top offensive weapon for some time now.
No, the offense has and continues to flow through All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel, both through the air and on the ground. And while that’s fine heading forward, it’s still in Shanahan’s best interests to have a well-balanced passing attack.
And that means properly dishing out Kittle’s targets by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Kittle missed the first two games of the year with a groin injury, of course. But, upon his return in Week 3, he wasn’t much of a factor in the receiving game, and then that was followed by some minimal use against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4.
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
It’s been a slow start to the season. And despite Shanahan trying to get Kittle the ball early in Week 5 against the Carolina Panthers, one can fairly wonder if Kittle’s fumble that the Panthers recovered influenced the fact he only saw one more target for the rest of the game.
Prior to that contest, Shanahan told the media he wasn’t too concerned about the lack of statistical impact from Kittle by saying, “Yeah, the more Kittle is out there and healthy, the more he practices, the more he can get back in the routine. I think that stuff will take care of itself.”
A season-high six targets, with four of them coming early, suggests Week 5 was a potential turning point.
But there needs to be more.
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Kittle has gone from being the Niners’ primary target to a secondary one now, perhaps even a tertiary option behind Samuel and fellow wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.
That’s not a bad thing, per se, but it typically means Kittle’s numbers are going to be less consistent on a week-to-week basis and more of the “peaks and valleys” variety.
As 49ers Webzone’s Al Sacco pointed out, perhaps San Francisco’s Week 6 contest against the Atlanta Falcons will provide the opportunity for one of those peaks:
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Sunday’s tilt against Atlanta figures to be one of the more winnable games the 49ers will have for some time as they prepare for a tougher stretch of bouts against playoff-caliber teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, the Rams, the Arizona Cardinals and the Miami Dolphins.
Ensuring Kittle is more than just a blocking weapon, which has been necessary in light of recent injuries to the offensive line, is still going to go a long way towards making Shanahan’s offense much more balanced heading into a tougher stretch of the season.