49ers TE George Kittle Breaks Silence on Lack of Usage in 2022

George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers

Getty George Kittle celebrating his lone catch in the San Francisco 49ers-Los Angeles Chargers game.

To call the San Francisco 49ers a team with an abundance of offensive weapons would be an understatement. They have two top-tier wide receivers in Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, similarly prolific running backs in Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell, who were both starters last season, and arguably the best fullback in the game in Kyle Juszczyk, who has been named to the Pro Bowl in every season since 2016.

With so many mouths to feed and only so many snaps to go around, it would be understandable if some plays slip through the cracks, but one of the players shouldn’t is George Kittle, another multi-time Pro Bowler who only received two targets in the Niners’ Week 10 game against the Los Angeles Chargers. When asked if he was frustrated by his lack of opportunities in the game by Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports Bay Area, Kittle gave a diplomatic response.

“Yes, and no,” Kittle said. “Have I walked into Kyle’s offense and said, ‘Give me the ball?’ No, I haven’t done that, but I tell Jimmy on the sidelines all the time, ‘Hey, I’m open. I’m in one-on-one coverage. I’m available. Just throw me the ball when you need me.'”

Unfortunately, Kittle is correct, according to ESPN, Kittle was only targeted twice in the game versus Los Angeles and only hauled in one of the two passes for a 21-yard gain. While Kittle wasn’t transparent for the rest of the game, as he remains one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL, it’s hard to understand how his targets could slip through the cracks.

“It happened last week,” Kittle said. “I’d love more than two targets, but it is what it is. We are winning the games, but I love the ball in my hands, and I like to provide a spark for the offense.”

George Kittle Hasn’t Received Less Than 2 Targets in Quite Some Time

In the seven games Kittle has appeared in so far this season, the University of Iowa product has been targeted 41 times, or roughly 5.85 times per game.

While he’s certainly had games that go over that mark, with hit career-high in targets (17) coming in the 49ers’ December 15th, 2019, game against the Atlanta Falcons, one has to go all the way back to Week 17 of the 2021 NFL season, in a 23-7 win over the Houston Texans on January 2nd, 2022, to find a game where Kittle was targeted only twice in a single game. How many other games has Kittle earned two or fewer targets in a game? Only four times, once in the 2019 NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers on January 19th, 2020, and three times during his rookie season back in 2017.

Kittle Remains a Top Run-Blocker for the 49ers

Though Kittle’s targets per game are currently the second-lowest mark of his career, the Iowa product remains one of the 49ers’ best-run blockers. That’s right, according to Pro Football Focus, Kittle ranks sixth on the 49ers in Rush Blocking grade behind just Trent Williams, Mike McGlinchey, McCaffrey, Jaylon Moore, and Tyler Kroft, and has the 10th-best grade among 65 qualifying tight ends.

Even if the Niners opt to spread the ball around to keep their offense hard to scheme against, it’s clear Kittle will continue to do the dirty work and contribute to the team’s on-field success all the same.

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