The Arizona Cardinals figure to see a lot of George Kittle in the coming years, and that thought is not exactly comforting for coach Kliff Kingsbury.
“He’s a tremendous talent and he’ll go down I think as one of the best ever if he stays healthy,” Kingsbury said Wednesday morning on a conference call with Bay Area reporters.
“I haven’t seen anybody stop him. No matter what they try to do to him, he finds a way to get open.”
The Cardinals travel to Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara to face the 49ers in the season opener on Sunday. And one of the big challenges for Arizona is to find a way to prevent Kittle from taking over the game.
The Cardinals might have aligned themselves better than most teams to contend with Kittle, who has more receiving yards (2,945) through three NFL seasons than any tight end in league history.
Arizona last week made Budda Baker the highest-paid safety in the league at $14.75 million a year. The 49ers last month extended Kittle with a contract that averages $15 million through the 2025 season.
Moreover, the Cardinals invested the No. 8 pick in the draft in versatile defender Isaiah Simmons, who excelled at Clemson at linebacker, safety and, even, cornerback. Arizona needed more athleticism from their linebacker spots, and Simmons provides length and the ability to cover in the middle of the field.
But Kingsbury quickly brushed aside the suggestion the addition of Simmons enables the Cardinals to neutralize Kittle.
“I don’t know that there is a George Kittle stopper from what I’ve seen,” Kingsbury said. “I mean, he’s pretty much dominated over the last couple years no matter what people have thrown at him.”
In addition to being a reliable target for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, Kittle also takes immense pleasure in his contributions as a blocker in the run game. Kingsbury compared Kittle’s energy to what he’s seen from Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski over the years.
“The thing that I love is his intensity,” Kingsbury said. “Him and Kelce and Gronk, they play with such an intensity, whether it’s blocking or running.
“You can see Kittle’s passion for the game. He’s excited when other guys make plays as well and his teammates feed off that.”