We’re past the midseason mark and still have some football left. It’s time to look at all the 49ers units and discuss what we like and don’t like out of them for 2018.
Well, we could probably just rename this post on evaluating the “George Kittle unit” and call it a day since most assume talking about the tight end position would be just be talking about George Kittle, who is (arguably) the most productive 49er on the team this year. Kittle (who I have nicknamed “The Unit”) has made life for the three quarterbacks that have gone under center for the 49ers much, much easier.
We all forgot some of the rough spots at the beginning. Kittle suffered from some drops the rest of the team suffered from, the Week 3 opening offensive play being the most memorable (and unacceptable). Kittle never was maddening, but the aforementioned drop in particular could have been a huge gain. What Kittle did wrong was far eclipsed for what he did right and he’s now become a near-elite tight end in the league. What’s underrated is he has also been a decent blocker. We can talk about his pass catching all we want and how he’s going to be the first 49ers pass catcher to hit 1,000 yards since Anquan Boldin did it in 2014, but being a tight end, Kittle has to block, and his blocking in 2018 has had a huge improvement as well as his freakish pass catching skills.
I don’t know how many man-hours went into over-evaluating or outright ignoring Kittle in favor of other tight end so that he slipped in the 5th round (or for the 49ers to consider taking him then). Then again, I’m not sure any of us are prepared for the answer.
So we could talk about the Kittle unit, and for good reason. What has Garrett Celek been doing? Celek Time has been quiet, almost invisible for much of 2018. He has 29 yards and one touchdown for the season, his last catch coming in Week 3 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Since the Chiefs nightmare, Celek has been targeted once more, against the Los Angeles Rams.
Behind those two, who make the
tight end George Kittle unit, there is Cole Wick, but the less said, the better (don’t drop easy touchdowns). There’s also Ross Dwelley who has caught 100 percent of his passes since being in the league. Of course there’s a catch (pardon the pun) and that 100 percent is one pass for eight yards.
So why are we talking about the George Kittle unit? Because there’s not much else with the tight ends. Celek hasn’t been awful, but he’s just done, not much. He’s had some serviceable blocks but it’s been nothing on the realm of Vance McDonald’s where you value him as a blocker much more than a pass-catcher. Wick, Dwelley, nothing really stands out. So there’s Kittle.
But Kittle has been a bright spot on this 49ers team and he’s on the cusp of reaching elite territory if he hasn’t made it already. If the 49ers can get the wide receivers figured out (which, with all the rookies, there should be some improvement in Year One to Year Two), Kittle is going to be an absolute nightmare for defenses and fighting with Travis Kelce for the top tight end spot. He’s already gotten a Twitter follow from Kelce, so there’s that.
What are your impressions of the tight ends at midseason?