If George Kittle moves his feet three inches in a different direction, this story might not even exist. Unfortunately his feet were out of bounds, so here we are.
You may have seen the stat floating around on social media.
Kyle Pitts gets all of the attention for TE letdowns, but over his past 8 games going back to last year, George Kittle has 21 catches for 220 yards and 1 TD.— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) October 5, 2022
His high mark for yardage over that span is 63 yards with fewer than 30 yards receiving in seven of those games.
That is not ideal for someone as talented as Kittle, especially when that someone is making around $15 million a year.
How can we explain this drought? Hribar later pointed out that it can’t all be attributed to pass blocking. Kittle has run a route on 52 of 61 Jimmy Garoppolo’s drop backs this season.
Our own Akash Anavarathan added a little more clarity to the picture yesterday.
George Kittle's usage (2019-22):— Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav) October 5, 2022
Kittle's running the same # of routes the last 4 years (not pass blocking more), but being targeted less.
What’s the biggest difference between the 2019 team and this year’s squad? Talent on offense. That Super Bowl team had Deebo as a rookie and added Emmanuel Sanders during the season. They had to feature Kittle more because there weren’t really many other big play options, no disrespect to Kendrick Bourne. This year’s team has a much more experienced Deebo Samuel, another weapon in Brandon Aiyuk, and a chain-mover in Jauan Jennings. They simply don’t need to rely on Kittle as much to move the ball down the field, especially if he’s double teamed.
Kyle Shanahan was asked why George hasn’t put up the receiving numbers we all know he’s capable of producing during his press conference on Wednesday.
“The more Kittle is out there and healthy, the more he practices, the more he can get back in the routine. I think that stuff will take care of itself. The plays that went to him, I thought he did a good job on in the game. Kittle affects the game in so many ways, the run and the pass. We definitely want to get him the ball more, but it’s something we’re not that concerned about. We think it’ll take care of itself as we get going.”
There’s still a long way to go in this season, and we all know Kittle is capable of exploding at any time. Last year he had that three game stretch where went off for 28 catches, 425 yards, and three touchdowns. Maybe he can do the same thing this year and give the offense the shot in the arm it could really use right now.
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