The San Francisco 49ers bolstered the tight end position when they signed former Pro Bowler Jordan Reed to a one-year deal on Monday. Pairing Reed with superstar George Kittle will give head coach Kyle Shanahan another dimension to his already successful offense.
But, how good can the Niners’ tight end group be in 2020? Former NFL running back Clinton Portis joined 95.7 The Game, and shared his thoughts on just how good the pairing of Kittle and Reed can be:
"I think your edition (of the offense) with Kittle and Jordan Reed is amazing. This could possibly be the best tight end crew of all time."— 95.7 The Game (@957thegame) August 4, 2020
-Clinton Portis on the #49ers addition of Jordan Reed (Via @MorningShow957) pic.twitter.com/qs4BrCvcqK
That is pretty high praise for the duo. There is no doubt how good Kittle is —he’s widely regarded as the best at his position— but the big question with Reed is his ability to stay on the field. The 30-year-old has a history of concussions and didn’t play a snap for the Washington Football Team in 2019.
Reed’s best statistical season was back in 2015 when he finished with 87 receptions for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. His numbers dipped a bit the following season, but Reed made his first-and-only Pro Bowl in 2016. No one is expecting him to match those numbers with San Francisco, but he will be a valuable addition next to Kittle, who played too many snaps last season.
The last great tight end duo in the NFL was when the New England Patriots had Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez causing matchup problems all over the field from 2010 to 2012.
Here are Gronk, and Hernandez’s combined stats for each of those seasons:
2010: 87 receptions for 1,109 yards, and 16 touchdowns (21 games combined)
2011: 169 receptions for 2,237 yards, and 26 touchdowns (26 games combined)
2012: 106 receptions for 1,273 yards, and 16 touchdowns (21 games combined)
Injuries are the biggest variable. As you can see above, when Gronkowski and Hernandez suited up for 26 contests, their numbers were much better.
To put things in perspective, Kittle caught 85 passes for 1,053 yards, and five scores in 14 games last season. He has never had more than five receiving touchdowns in his three seasons, which is more a product of Shanahan’s offensive play calling, and Kittle’s ability as a blocker.
Assuming Kittle, and Reed can stay healthy for at least 26 games combined, how do you think their numbers will look compared to Gronkowski and Hernandez’s 2011 total?