When you put up the monster numbers that George Kittle did in 2018, it feels like nitpicking when you ask where he can improve. Dante Pettis had an impressive rookie season, but it was cut short due to injury. Because of that, there is plenty of room to grow heading into his second season. Jimmy Garoppolo will grow through some growing pains in his “first” full season as a starter. He’s going to light it up as well, but consistency will be essential for the San Francisco 49ers quarterback. At running back, we’ll likely see a committee based on matchups. For today, we’ll talk about Tevin Coleman and what his goals should be in his first season. Let’s start with Kittle and his goals.
Kittle- Double his red zone production
To me, the answer is obvious. The 49ers struggled in the red zone last year. Everyone knows that. The Niners need Kittle to produce in the red zone. Last year, Kittle was targeted 21 times in the red zone, had 12 receptions and three touchdowns. The touchdowns need to double, while there will be a natural uptick in catches and targets with Jimmy Garoppolo under center. The offense will move the ball more. That’s going to happen.
For comparison, Travis Kelce had 19 receptions in the red zone on 30 targets, for nine touchdowns. Zach Ertz caught 16 of his 28 targets for seven touchdowns. The 49ers rely on Kittle heavily in the red zone this year. He’s too big, too fast, and too good not to. Kittle was absurdly productive last year. He caught 88 passes in 2018, and 60 went for a first down. Now it’s time to bring that production to the red zone.
Pettis- Top ten in the league in first down receptions
If his rookie season is any indication, Pettis should be among the league leaders in first downs. Of his 40 targets, 19 of those went for first downs. That’s efficiency at its finest. Julio Jones led the NFC in first down receptions last year with 80. He was also targeted 170 freaking times. I can’t imagine Pettis reaching that level of volume anytime soon, especially considering the player we just talked about above being on his team.
Kenny Golladay and Brandin Cooks tied for ninth with 56 catches that went for first downs. Both had over 115 targets last year. That still might be a touch high volume wise for Pettis, but this is the range he should shoot for. Pettis may fall short of cracking the top-10, but he has the skill set to be in the conversation. As a second-year receiver, that should tell you all you need to know about his ceiling.
Garoppolo- Throw for over 25 touchdowns
Touchdowns equal success. Players that threw for over 25 touchdowns last year: Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, Baker Mayfield, Tom Brady, Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Patrick Mahomes. So, arguably the 13 best quarterbacks last year.
Throwing 25 touchdowns isn’t too big of an ask for Garoppolo. Kyle Shanahan has always been the type to pad his quarterback’s stats near the goal line. That’s the case for the majority of play-callers.
The season won’t be lost if Garoppolo comes up short of 25 touchdowns. This is where the upper echelon of the NFL is. That’s where Jimmy G should be.
Coleman- Be top 5 in percentage of runs over 15 yards
The 49ers were applauded for signing Coleman for several reasons. The biggest reason was his ability to turn a short-yardage gain into a double-digit run. Last year, 48% of Coleman’s runs went for more than 15 yards. That was second in the league for players that had over 50 touches to this guy named Saquon Barkley.
Coleman has always been an explosive back dating back to his days in college. When every other touch has a chance to be a big play, you’re going to get touches. That’s especially true in a Kyle Shanahan offense. Coleman may not total the yards, but if he can maximize his touches as he has throughout his career, the 49ers will be jumping with joy with that type of production. Coleman has the speed to break away. His consistent ability to break away is precisely what the Niners are looking for.