Perhaps it’s a symptom of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan completely overhauling the team in their image - only 11 players, including LS Kyle Nelson and P Bradley Pinion remain on the 90 man roster that they didn’t personally sign - but expectations seem to be very high for a large number of players returning for their second year in the system. Obviously, marquee names like Reuben Foster and Jimmy Garoppolo are the most likely to garner major national attention, but the rest of a team is getting a fair amount of praise floated their way.
Sunday’s set of links was a fine display of this, expressing optimistic outlooks for CB Ahkello Witherspoon, TE George Kittle, and WR Pierre Garcon. All 3 second-year 49ers are expected to be important pieces if the team is to achieve success - especially Kittle and Witherspoon, who both (knock on wood) have long careers ahead of them.
Although the criteria for declaring each player “important” was fundamentally different, the conclusions arrived at for each one are compelling, and, not to be overly homer-ish, fairly exciting. The praise heaped upon Witherspoon actually originated from Richard Sherman, who saw enough talent in his future running mate to invite him to his offseason training “summit”, which was populated by elite CBs from across the league. Uncle Sherm was effusive in his praise of the young CB, especially his technical understanding of routes and footwork. If he’s right, and Witherspoon builds upon a positive rookie season, there should be a bright future ahead for the young man.
The reasoning behind Garcon’s expectations was based on the perception of his skill set - he’s seen as a sure handed receiver who makes use of excellent footwork and timing to execute crisp route after crisp route. The second half of that, however, is Jimmy Garoppolo’s quick release and surgical nature in the short game. Combining the two seems to maximize the strengths of each player, and should, ideally, lead to a very successful on-field connection.
Lastly, there’s George Kittle. Depending on who you ask, either the cat is out of the bag with the young TE, or it’s dangerously close to getting out. Reactions seem to be mixed on his prowess as a blocker, but my general memories of such tend to be generally positive. However, statistically, Kittle is among fairly rare company. Among rookie tight ends, he’s one of only 9 in the past decade to reach 500 receiving yards in his first campaign - and company dwindles dramatically as you pare the results back to later and later rounds.
Either way, it’s an exciting time to be a 49ers fan.
Terrell Owens on HoF beef: “For those who had to wait” | Florio, PFT
Most important 49ers of 2018: #11 WR Pierre Garcon | Almquist, KNBR
Training Camp preview: Tight Ends | Biderman, Ninerswire
Sherman’s decision came from desire to play with Garoppolo, Cousins | Bonilla, 49ers Webzone