This is the final installment of a nine-part series that examines the 49ers’ roster coming out of the 2019 season, looks ahead to 2020, and outlines the offseason challenges facing general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan on a position-by-position basis.
Today, a look at the 49ers’ special teams.
Under contract (signed through)
Kicker Robbie Gould (2022)
Punter Mitch Wishnowsky (2022)
Long snapper Kyle Nelson (2022)
What needs to happen
A year ago, the 49ers had uncertainty at kicker, punter and long snapper. Now, the organization is set for a while.
Each of the 49ers’ specialists is signed through the 2022 season. Unless something dramatic happens, the 49ers do not need to do anything with those spots for at least a couple of seasons.
Return man Richie James was solid on kickoffs and punts. He did not mishandle a punt during the regular season but muffed his first opportunity of Super Bowl LIV. Shanahan said at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis that he wants to see Dante Pettis elevate his game and challenge James for the punt-return job.
Gould got off to a rough start as the 49ers went through three long-snappers before Nelson returned after serving a suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Gould missed a career-high eight field-goal attempts, including going 0-for-4 from beyond 50 yards.
After getting more time with Wishnowsky and Nelson, Gould came on strong and was named NFC Special-Teams Player of the Month for December, when he kicked field goals as time expired to beat the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams.
Wishnowky had a good rookie season. He tied for 12th in the NFL with a net average of 41.6 yards per punt. He won NFC Special Teams Player of the Week in November for a game against the Arizona Cardinals. Wishnowsky also handled the kickoff chores, but that area of his game needs a lot of improvement.