Cardinals HC on 49ers Weapon: ‘I Haven’t Seen Anybody Stop Him’


Abbie Parr/Getty Images Kliff Kingsbury, head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

It’s safe to say that Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury knows what he’s up against in the Week 1 opener against the San Francisco 49ers.

After all, Kingsbury shares some similarities with San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Both are relatively young, creative and offensive-minded known for making the most of their offensive talents. Shanahan’s best example, perhaps, is tight end George Kittle.

Kittle went from being a fifth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft to a 2019 All-Pro, all but solidifying himself as the league’s top tight end ahead of the 2020 NFL season.

After becoming the NFL’s highest-paid tight end a few weeks back, Kittle now sets his sight on another run to the Super Bowl, and that starts with Kingsbury’s team.

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Kingsbury’s Comments on Kittle

Per NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco, Kingsbury highlighted Kittle’s talent and ability to perform game in, game out during a press call with local media on Wednesday.

“He’s a tremendous talent and he’ll go down I think as one of the best ever if he stays healthy,” Kingsbury said. “I haven’t seen anybody stop him. No matter what they try to do to him, he finds a way to get open.”

While Kingsbury may be entering just his second year as an NFL head coach, it’s still high praise from a man who is considered one of football’s most innovative and successful minds on the offensive side of the ball.

What’s particularly interesting is that Kingsbury hasn’t even seen Kittle at full strength, with the former Iowa Hawkeye battling injury at the mid-point last season, when San Francisco and Arizona squared off twice in a few weeks.

If all goes to the 49ers plans, the Cardinals won’t just be seeing Kittle twice, they’ll be seeing him at his best as well.

Kittle’s History Against the Cardinals

Kittle hasn’t missed a lot of games in his NFL career, just three total and one of those came against the Cardinals last season.

In the five total games against Arizona, Kittle has totaled 281 receiving yards and a touchdown in five games, averaging over 56 yards per game receiving, which is not astronomical, but certainly consistent.

When you factor out Kittle’s rookie season, where he totaled just 62 receiving yards and finished the 2017 campaign with 515 receiving yards and two touchdowns, Kittle has put up an impressive 73 yards per game against the Cardinals in his past three chances against Arizona.

As Kingbury said, nobody has been able to consistently stop Kittle, and that includes his own team. However, the addition of star rookie Isaiah Simmons further strengthens an already stout defensive team that features Patrick Peterson and Chander Jones.

Kittle’s primary opponent, however, will be safety Budda Baker, who typically gets the nod to guard the tight end whenever the team is playing man-to-man.

While Kittle put up 79 yards and a touchdown on Baker in Week 9 of last year, it’ll be interesting to see how Kingsbury, Baker and the Cardinals shift their plans to mitigate Kittle’s impact, especially if receivers like Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are unavaiable.

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Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the NFL for and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.