Is there anything better than seeing a blocker light up a defender? Especially when it’s San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle?
That can be debated later, but in the meantime, check out Las Vegas Raiders general manager Mike Mayock’s recently resurfaced video of a block from the former Iowa Hawkeye, who blows up a North Dakota State defender back in his senior season.
Can you tell that George Kittle / Iowa TE 46 / is the son of a former Hawkeye OL ?? Bend, explosion, feet and finish ! pic.twitter.com/Uevlfdcoeo
— Mike Mayock (@MikeMayock) February 17, 2017
Twitter has spent Tuesday reminiscing in the block, and rightly so. Kittle completely annihilates the defender in textbook fashion. Wearing No. 46 only adds to the gritty aesthetic of the former Hawkeye.
So glad the Bears took a guy from Ashland instead. 😒
— Adam Rank (@adamrank) May 26, 2020
What coaches mean when they say “block until the whistle blow”😂😂
— Antonio McFadden Jr (@305_tonio) May 25, 2020
However, one tweet in particular brings up an old criticism of the 49ers’ fifth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
I was told he wasn't a great blocker by Gottlieb
— Ethan Chadwick (@ethanwchadwick) May 26, 2020
Doug Gottlieb on George Kittle’s Blocking
Many of the replies besides the above Twitter user focus on Fox Sports analyst Doug Gottlieb, who famously said that Kittle had talent coming out of college, but that he was not a tremendous blocker like Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski.
“As well respected Gronk is as a pass-catcher, he didn’t get the respect he deserved as a guy who could block. All these other great pass-catchers, like George Kittle. George Kittle, not really a blocker, unbelievable talent, not a blocker.”
They say hindsight is 20-20, so Gottlieb’s take deserves to be taken with a grain of salt. Plus, it’s not like Kittle was regarded as a top-tier talent out of college.
10 touchdowns in his final two seasons with Iowa were the only eye-catching stats of his college career, and he was drafted on Day 3 of the draft due to an inability to nationally shine in Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz’s offense.
However, the analyst’s take still doesn’t make a lot of sense. Especially since Kittle has been utilized in all parts of the offensive game since joining the 49ers.
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Kittle’s Blocking as a 49er
One of the recent tweets used in the conversation revolving around Kittle and Gottlieb was this compilation of blocks set to Gottlieb’s criticism.
— TheSFNiners (@TheSFNiners) December 3, 2019
While that tweet is played up for laughs, NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger did a comprehensive job of highlighting Kittle’s abilities as a blocker back towards the end of the 2019 season with this video below.
Baldinger uses the 49ers’ 20-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens as the film sample. While San Francisco walked away empty-handed from a tough game, Baldinger highlights the fact that the 49ers offense and running back Raheem Mostert were successful on the ground, as the RB totaled 146 yards and 7.7 yards per carry.
At about the 35-second mark, Baldinger brings up a great clip and interesting aspect of the use of Kittle’s blocking.
“He goes in motion a lot, changing strengths from the left side to the right side. No. 99 for the Ravens is Matt Judock, their starting outside linebacker/defensive end. I’d say this is a pretty good block. [Kittle] puts him on skates here in Baltimore. In one of the best games of the season so that Mostert can rip off an 18-yard run right behind the blocking of Kittle.”
If Kittle’s Pro Bowl-level seasons in 2018 and 2019 are any sign of what’s to come, then the 49ers should continue to see one of the NFL’s best weapons continue to do his job as both a pass-catcher and a blocker.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, MT. Follow and reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier.