49ers Lose All-Pro Playmaker for at Least 3 Games

George Kittle

Getty George Kittle, center, will miss at least three weeks after the 49ers placed him on injured reserve October 9.

The San Francisco 49ers placed TE George Kittle on the injured reserve list, NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero reported on Saturday, October 9.

“The #49ers are placing TE George Kittle (calf) on injured reserve, meaning he’s out three games. Rather than having the injury nag him all season, the hope is it settles down and he can be back when eligible,” Pelissero tweeted.

The news came one day after 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan ruled Kittle out for the team’s Sunday game against the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers lineup in Week 5 will be much different than it was in Week 1, as injuries have hit the team hard. Rookie QB Trey Lance is making his first professional regular season start in light of starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s calf injury, which could keep him out three to five weeks as well.

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Kittle, WR Deebo Samuel Make More Than Half of SF’s Pass Catches

George Kittle

GettyGeorge Kittle, pictured, and WR Deebo Samuel account for nearly 50% of San Francisco’s caught balls.

Lance will have to make his first start without a major weapon, as Kittle’s absence takes a big chunk out of San Francisco’s passing game. In fact, productive pass-catchers other than Kittle and WR Deebo Samuel have been hard to come by this season for the 49ers.

Samuel and Kittle account for 47 catches between the two of them. All other 49ers receivers combined have caught 41 balls. Samuel and Kittle have been targeted 71 times. The other 17 pass catchers on the Niners depth charts have accounted for 59 passes thrown their way.

The drop-off from Kittle, the second-most productive receiver behind Samuel, is drastic.

Kittle has 19 receptions on 28 targets and 227 yards. Behind Kittle with the third most targets and receptions is FB Kyle Juszczyk, who has 11 receptions for 12 targets for 100 yards.

Samuel isn’t just leading the 49ers. He’s leading the league in receiving yards with 493, which he’s netted on 28 catches. The 49ers’ passing attack wasn’t expected to be this imbalanced, but second-year man Brandon Aiyuk has been nearly non-existent so far due to injury and other reasons. After displaying such a promising, productive rookie season last year, Aiyuk has caught only six balls for 58 yards so far this season.

Tight ends Ross Dwelley and Charlie Woerner are expected to fill the void left by Kittle’s injury. Dwelley is in his fourth year out of the University of San Diego and Woerner in his second year after playing at the University of Georgia.

Starting Lineup Looks Much Different in October Than September

Jimmy Garoppolo

GettyJimmy Garoppolo has missed nearly as many games as he’s played since arriving in San Francisco in 2018.

Garoppolo will miss his first start of the season Sunday, but he has missed significant time since he arrived in San Francisco in 2018. Since he signed a five-year $137.5 million deal, Tom Brady‘s one-time heir apparent has started 29 games but missed 24 of them.

San Francisco’s backfield is also much different than it was in early September.

Two recent additions to the running game have been RBs Elijah Mitchell and Trey Sermon, but both have missed playing time recently.

Mitchell assumed the top spot in the backfield after veteran Raheem Mostert was lost for the season due to a knee injury against the Detroit Lions in Week 1. However, Mitchell hurt his shoulder in Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Sermon also injured himself in Philadelphia, sustaining a concussion on the first carry of his NFL career. He returned in time to play in the team’s Week 3 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Shanahan told reporters on Friday that both running backs will be available against the Cardinals. Mitchell has carried the ball 36 times this season, rushing for a total of 146 yards. Sermon has carried the ball 30 times, rushing for 128 yards.

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