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49ers’ Film Breakdown: Why George Kittle has developed into the most complete tight end in the NFL

Former 5th-round pick George Kittle has become the NFL’s most complete tight end.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers’ media members were all sitting in the media auditorium after San Francisco defeated Carolina, awaiting various players to give their post-game press conference. Tight end George Kittle walks into a thunderous roar from the fans waiting outside and has a giant smile on his face.

San Francisco’s former fifth-round pick is coming off one of his better games of the season, catching six passes for 86 yards and dominating multiple linebackers in the run-blocking game too.

But off the field, Kittle has developed into one of the faces of the 49ers’ franchise and one of the more likable players, thanks to his big personality and love for the game. On the field, the former Iowa star has developed into the most complete tight end in football, and here are a few plays from the game vs. Panthers that describes why.

The 49ers love to run screens for all their players — including Kittle. On this play, Kittle lines up like he’s blocking in a run play, but has a delayed escape and can gain 11 yards on such a simple play design.

This next screen play is similar to the one above, but Kittle fakes the block and rolls out into the flat. Panthers’ linebacker Shaq Thompson gets caught in no man’s land, and all of a sudden, the 49ers have gained 12 yards on this play.

One of the better route-running tight ends in the NFL, Kittle can use a double move to evade Thompson, and he’s WIDE open in the middle of the field. One of the underrated parts of his game to take the hit from Panthers’ safety Tre Boston and hold on to the pass.

Now, let’s switch to another facet of Kittle’s game — his dominant run blocking. In every successful run play, either Kittle or fullback Kyle Juszczyk (before he got hurt) was making a key block. In this play, Kittle takes out Panthers’ linebacker Mario Addison right out of the play — creating a huge lane for the 49ers’ running back.

Panthers’ linebacker Luke Kuechly doesn’t get pushed around very often, but Kittle absolutely destroys him on this play, knocking him right out of his stance and knocking him to the ground.

49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan loves to motion his receivers and Kittle comes across the formation. The Panthers’ defense loses Kittle on this play, as he’s streaking across the middle of the field between the two safeties. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hits him in stride and boom it’s a huge gain on the play.

On this next play, Kittle gets up to the next level of the defense and holds off safety Eric Reid, which creates an opening for wideout Deebo Samuel to run right through it.

Kittle’s dominant play didn’t start against the Panthers, but against one of the better linebacking cores in the NFL, the 49ers’ tight end had no issue imposing his will.