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TE George Kittle - San Francisco 49ers

6-4, 247Born: 10-9-1993College: IowaDrafted: Round 5, pick 2017

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Recent Stats and Projections

17 at LAR 61 9 149 1 0 20.9

Weekly Performance vs TE 1, TE 12, TE 24

Percentile ranks

George Kittle's percentile rank in each category, among TE with more than 50 fantasy points.

Recent Game Summaries

2018 Week 17 vs LAR (14 / 9 / 149 / 1 rec)

For the second week in a row, the vast majority of Kittle's production came with the 49ers down multiple scores in the second half; this time 120 of 149 to be exact. So continuing last week's exercise, why/how was he neutralized early in the game? Well, unlike last week, he didn't have an inordinate amount of sacks in pass protection. And for completeness, nor was he asked to run block more often than usual. Also unlike last week, the Rams didn't do a great job in coverage; he was open plenty. No, the reason why Kittle didn't put up stats until the second half was a combination of a game plan focused on establishing the run and the barrage of four first-half turnovers that removed him from the field.

2018 Week 16 vs CHI (12 / 7 / 74 / 0 rec)

Of Kittle's 12 targets, 7 came with San Francisco losing in the fourth quarter. Ditto 52 of his 74 receiving yards. There are three reasons why he wasn't a factor earlier in the game. First, facing the Bears' formidable pass rush, the 49ers had Kittle help out in pass protection far more than he usually does. Second, almost every time Kittle lined up in a three-point stance to run a play-action route, a defender chipped him to throw off his route and its timing. (The most absurd iteration of this tactic actually happened in the fourth quarter, when outside linebacker Leonard Floyd flat-out tackled him as he came off the line of scrimmage.) Finally, the Bears simply covered Kittle better than any team has all season, typically devoting two defenders in coverage, not as a classic double-team per se, but as a means to make sure he wasn't open for long at any particular distance downfield.

2018 Week 15 vs SEA (8 / 3 / 51 / 0 rec)

At first glance, it appears Kittle underachieved against the Seahawks. It turn out, however, that perception would be much different if one play had gone differently. Early in the second quarter, Kittle ran a post route from a flexed left position. Single-high safety Tedric Thompson, initially shaded towards Kittle's side of the field, was late to react to the route flipping to the other side of the field. Meanwhile, linebacker Austin Calitro reacted quickly, but was too far upfield to get back in time. All this resulted in Kittle being wide open for a no-doubt 71-yard touchdown, but Nick Mullens ever so slightly overthrew him.

2018 Week 14 vs DEN (9 / 7 / 210 / 1 rec)

Kittle produced 5 of San Francisco's 10 longest plays, 3 of which gained over 30 yards. So how does a tight end eclipse 200 yards receiving in the first half? In short, Kyle Shanahan's game plan and Kittle's execution completely overwhelmed both the man-to-man and zone coverage of linebacker Todd Davis and safety Darian Stewart. On all three of his 30-plus yard first half receptions (totaling 168 yards), Kittle was wide open against one, the other, or both; and with wide open space to run after the catch. So what happened in the second half to make Kittle disappear? First, the 49ers went into a shell offensively, running the ball far more often. Second, before San Francisco's game-sealing drive, Denver had held the ball for twice as long (17:23 to 8:56). Third, Kittle's routes went towards the left side of the field, i.e., away from the aforementioned duo that he'd torched in the first half. Fourth, Denver started double-covering him. And finally, Denver dialed up their pass rush to the point that Nick Mullens didn't have enough time to find Kittle downfield anymore.

2018 Week 13 vs SEA (9 / 6 / 70 / 0 rec)

Kittle's longest play was a 28-yard gain late in the third quarter that was the result of deceptive play design and perfect execution. He lined up as a blocker on the right side of the line, and the 49ers faked a run to the left. Kittle sold that he was blocking, but weaved his way across the field through second-level traffic and broken open behind safety Bradley McDougald, who vacated his Cover-3 zone responsibility to bite hard on the play action. Otherwise it was a rather pedestrian day for Kittle, thanks to a combination of McDougald's coverage and errant, pressure-induced throws by Nick Mullens. (Note: One of his "targets" wasn't even a target as it was batted down at the line of scrimmage.)

2018 Week 12 vs TB (12 / 6 / 48 / 0 rec, 1 / 10 / 0 rush)

Kittle's inefficient game despite heavy usage (94% snap share and 12 targets) was due to a combination of factors. First, Nick Mullens made several errant passes when Kittle was wide open, a couple of times because he was hit as he threw the ball. Second, Mullens was late on a couple of throws, both times because Tampa Bay's pass rush got there with the quickness. Third, and most importantly, via the combination of safety Jordan Whitehead and linebacker Adarius Taylor, Tampa Bay's game plan in pass defense seemed to be designed to limit Kittle's yards after the catch. Indeed, after averaging 10.8 YAC on 50 receptions through Week 11, he only averaged 2.5 YAC against the Buccaneers.

2018 Week 10 vs NYG (10 / 9 / 83 / 0 rec)

One would think that Landon Collins is a safety talented enough to cover Kittle one on one. Instead, the Giants opted to play a ton of zone, which Kittle repeatedly exploited across the middle of the field. His only catch outside the numbers came on a flat route with Collins in rare man-to-man coverage. Kittle was able to make a leaping catch and then avoid Collins initial tackle attempt, thereby escaping for an 18-yard gain on 3rd-and-5.

2018 Week 9 vs OAK (4 / 4 / 108 / 1 rec)

Kittle had two catches for 71 yards and a touchdown in the span of one four-play drive to start the second half. The 5-yard touchdown that culminated said drive was an easy score by NFL standards, as Kittle held his block in pass protection for a beat before releasing completely uncovered into the left flat and trotting into the end zone untouched. The catch and run that put San Francisco in that position involved as high a degree of difficulty as any tight end will successfully conquer all season. Kittle ran a stick-nod route from slot left against linebacker Tahir Whitehead, who bit hard on the stick and was lost in the dust by the time of the nod. The difficulty for Kittle came after that. Disrupted by an inside pass rush, Nick Mullens heaved his pass across the middle using an abbreviated throwing motion. The lack of oomph allowed three defenders to converge on the ball's destination, but it somehow got through them all, and was grabbed out of the air by Kittle's outstretched left hand. After this one-handed catch, Kittle then -- as he did a few weeks ago -- proceeded to beat multiple (smaller) defenders in a foot race.

2018 Week 8 vs ARI (8 / 5 / 57 / 0 rec)

One of Kittle's incomplete targets is an anomaly of official scoring. The last play of the game involved a comically errant snap that C.J. Beathard had to retreat and recover and then toss the ball in desperation, which just happened to be in Kittle's general vicinity. Otherwise, Kittle was neutralized by the combination of Arizona's linebackers. Indeed, Kittle's longest gain, which went for 20 yards midway through the second quarter, came on the infrequent play in which the Cardinals' played zone; and so Kittle ended up wide open across the middle of the field.

2018 Week 7 vs LAR (8 / 5 / 98 / 1 rec)

Two-thirds of Kittle's receiving yardage (67 of 98) and three-quarters of his PPR points (15.7 of 20.8) came during a two-minute drill with San Francisco down 22-0 at the end of the first half. His touchdown that culminated said drive was an impressive display of individual skill, using one arm/hand/torso to secure a catch against the tight quarters red-zone coverage of cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman. The other two receptions in this span were much more of the "wide open catch-and-run" variety, both of which also came against zone coverage. The first involved a dig route across the middle in which linebacker Cory Littleton passed Kittle off to no one. The second involved the West Coast offense staple of a tight end lined up on the strong side of the formation running a shallow crossing route coupled with a quarterback bootlegging off of play action (i.e., what any 49ers fan would recognize immediately as "the Brent Jones" play from back in the Halcyon days).

2018 Week 6 vs GB (6 / 4 / 30 / 0 rec)

Given how much zone defense Green Bay played, especially during the first half, it's odd that Kittle had his least productive game in weeks. Further inspection of the coaches' film reveals two main reasons: 1) Other receivers were wide open early in their routes, so Beathard went there instead; and 2) Kittle was simply not open all that often because Green Bay often covered him with multiple defenders. The one time he was wide open (uncovered really), Beathard overthrew Kittle in the right flat because he had to elevate his pass above the outstretched arms of Clay Matthews.

2018 Week 5 vs ARI (7 / 5 / 83 / 0 rec)

Kittle did all of his damage against Arizona's zone defense. Despite a relatively quiet day from a target perspective, he had San Francisco's longest gain of the game. It was basically the same play that resulted in one of his earlier short receptions, a tight end screen. Lined up in the backfield, he simply sat down in the Cardinals' short middle zone. Two San Francisco offensive linemen shed their blocks and got out in front him. From there, Kittle showed off his speed once again, running by several defenders like they were standing still. A key downfield block from Trent Taylor then turned a 35-yard gain into a 45-yard gain, which the 49ers desperately needed at the time.

2018 Week 4 vs LAC (8 / 6 / 125 / 1 rec)

Kittle was thrown to early and often per the 49ers game plan, seeing six of his eight targets while they were building a lead in the first half. His most spectacular play, however, came late in the third quarter, when he scored an 82-yard touchdown to get San Francisco back within two points after blowing said lead in rapid fashion. The route, a post-corner-post route, was spectacular, as it left him completely uncovered in the deep seam. More spectacular, though, was his 60 yards of running after the catch, wherein he actually beat both cornerback Casey Hayward and safety Jahleel Addae in a foot race. And it wasn't even close.

2018 Week 3 vs KC (7 / 5 / 79 / 0 rec)

Although he dropped the pass wide open across the middle of the field, Kittle's busy day was foreshadowed on the 49ers first play from scrimmage. His longest gain came on a backside underneath route that's a staple of the West Coast offense. As designed, he was completely uncovered, hauled in the short pass, and picked up 25 yards after the catch. But his most impressive play of the game only went for 15 yards. It came on 3rd-and-16, which allowed the 49ers to convert on 4th-and-short, thereby extending a drive that kept the score within reach. On the play, Kittle leaked out into the flat after pass-blocking, caught the dumpoff 9 yards short of the sticks, made a tackler miss, and then bowled over four more.

2018 Week 2 vs DET (4 / 2 / 22 / 0 rec)

Kittle's target count is a tad misleading because he drew holding/contact penalties on two additional passes thrown his way that don't count as a target in the box score. He also drew another holding penalty on a target that went elsewhere (and was intercepted). Viewing the All-22 coaches' film reveals several additional holding/contact fouls that were not called. When Kittle was able to use his hands for something other than extricating himself from the clutches of Lions defenders, his two receptions involved hands-only catches. One was on a post route where he reached back and snatched a pass that was thrown behind him. Speaking of errant passes, Jimmy Garoppolo air-mailed a wide open throw to Kittle over the middle that would have easily led to a 20-yard catch and run, if not more.

2018 Week 1 vs MIN (9 / 5 / 90 / 0 rec)

As was predicted in this space during the Preseason Week 3 recap, Kittle was on the field for over 75 percent of San Francisco's offensive plays. He was targeted early and often, but especially when the 49ers found themselves trailing by one score or more. Down 10-0 in the second quarter, Shanahan called Kittle's number on consecutive plays for a total of 31 yards. On the next drive, down 10-3, Kittle had gains of 23 and 9 yards, the latter of which came on a nifty play design in the red zone that sent Alfred Morris (of all players) outside to wide receiver.


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