George Kittle is a beast. He sits with the record for most receiving yards in a season by a tight end as well as several 49ers team records for the position. He was also five yards short of the most receiving yards in a single game by a tight end. Needless to say, he needs to sustain himself, not work on something. Or does he?
Turns out, Kittle himself says he’s only the third best in route running among all the tight ends Kyle Shanahan has coached. Now, as far as the extensiveness of this pool, we won’t go into, but Kittle found something to work on. In a recent article by Eric Branch, Kittle himself identified his shortcomings:
“Coach Shanahan said that out of all the tight ends he’s ever had, I do a lot of things really, really well,” Kittle said. “But I’m still third (among that group) in route running. So that’s one of the challenges he gave to me. And that’s certainly one thing I’ll focus on this offseason.”
The best part is how Kittle identified his route running needed work. It was a C.J. Beathard interception towards the end of the Packers game. The intended target of the play was Marquise Goodwin, but Kittle took a brunt of the blame:
“When C.J. threw the interception at the end of the game, Shanahan was more mad at me for my route,” Kittle said. “It was (3rd-and-3) and I had a five-yard stick route. I ran it at four yards. He told me ‘Hey, just run it at two (yards). It’s a zero blitz. You probably would have caught it and run for 15 yards.’ So that’s the type of stuff he sees and -- in the back of my head -- I don’t even realize it until he tells me.”
Kittle is going to be busy the next few months. He’s scheduled to train with Tony Gonzalez at some point. 49ers tight ends coach Jon Embree has a list of things he wants Gonzalez to work with Kittle on. Route running may be at the top of that list.
As great as Kittle’s 2018 season was, his work ethic shows a guy who should continue getting better. And as we’ve said before on the 2017 draft: say what you want about the talent taken, but always remember to take the arguments with a, “yeah but,” and then make a reminder the 49ers landed Kittle. In the fifth round.