SANTA CLARA — If your job description was modified every week, how willing and able would you be adapting to the demands of your superiors?
That’s exactly what 49ers tight end Ross Dwelley has done successfully week after week in the first six starts of his career. He has adjusted his play for injured players at fullback, offensive line and of course, tight end, in a seamless fashion.
Dwelley has even been given the nickname “Baby George” by his teammates for how similar he is becoming to Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, however, may have just given Dwelley a new moniker.
“Yeah, he’s kind of the Swiss army knife in our offense right now,” Garoppolo said. “He does a little bit of everything, lines up split out at receiver sometimes, so you’ve got to tip your hat to him.
“He’s had a lot on his plate the last however many weeks just with guys being down. He doesn’t even hesitate. He just attacks it, gets the formation and goes out there and performs. When his number is called, he does a great job.”
With all the praise he has been given over the last few weeks, Dwelley remains soft spoken and humble. His first answers in interviews always point to the closeness of the locker room and the support he has been given, even though he has been the one doing the extra credit work.
“We have a lot of guys on this team stepping up when when guys go down,” Dwelley said when asked about filling in for Kittle. “It just speaks to how special this team is overall. We all got each others backs and we all just try to step up when we need to.”
Dwelley might not have actually lined up on the offensive line but his play definitely supported backups Justin Skule and Daniel Brunskill when he stepped in for fullback Kyle Juszczyk who was nursing a knee injury. Coach Kyle Shanahan gave a lot of credit to the second-year tight end for all of the things he does that don’t show up on the stats sheet.
“Ross has been great,” Shanahan said. “He’s been great all year. He was unbelievable stepping up, taking over for Juice when Juice was out and he’s been great stepping up for Kittle when he’s been out.
“Ross has been one of the better football players on our team this year and doesn’t get a lot of accolades because he’s not going to sit there and get a bunch of explosive plays, but he’s as good of a football player as we’ve got going right now.”
Dwelley’s hard work paid off in the 49ers 36-26 victory over the Cardinals. Half of his four receptions went for touchdowns, the first two of his career. While Shanahan called the plays for Dwelley’s trips to the end zone, in a light-heartened manner he wants to make sure his tight end doesn’t get over confident.
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Dwelley’s low yards per catch average for the season are a constant point of reference by Shanahan to keep his player in check. While Dwelley currently is averaging 4.7 yards per reception, up until Week 9, it barely stood at one yard.
“It’s fun to mess with him,” Shanahan said. “I mean, we respect the heck out of him. I said he was the best football player on our team yesterday, so I don’t mind messing with his average. He also had a 14-yarder called back so that’s where he got messed up. Or it was 10 yards I’m not sure. It’s better to keep his average down just to keep him humble. You know, we don’t want him to get carried away."