George Kittle's impact on 49ers' offense clear in big win over Packers

George Kittle's impact on 49ers' offense clear in big win over Packers

SANTA CLARA -- After two weeks of watching his team play games from the press box tower, 49ers tight end George Kittle was back on the field at Levi's Stadium on Sunday night, making a huge impact on San Francisco's offense. 

Kittle was productive in his own right in the 49ers' 37-8 win over the Green Bay Packers, catching all six of his targets for 129 yards and a touchdown. His sideline presence didn't show up in the box score, but his impact on San Francisco's running game did.

The 49ers averaged 5.1 yards per carry with Kittle in the lineup Sunday. In the two weeks without him, they averaged only 2.6 yards per run. Needless to say, coach Kyle Shanahan was very happy to have one of his biggest playmakers on the mend from a bone chip in his ankle and a popped capsule in his knee. 

“He means a ton, you all know that,” Shanahan said Sunday. “It was hard without him and to have him back tonight, it was obviously what he did in the pass game but what he does in the run game is equally important. It was great to have him out there.”

Opening up the run game takes the pressure off of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and Kittle is the QB's most reliable target. Despite missing two games, Kittle leads the 49ers in receptions (52), targets (63) and receiving yards (670).

But Garoppolo didn't miss Kittle's production most. Interestingly, the QB really keyed in on the intangibles the tight end brings to the table.

“George is awesome, man,” Garoppolo said. “Just the energy he brings on the sideline, getting guys involved getting guys talking. In the huddle even. It’s little things like that and then obviously you guys see what he does on the field. 

“I throw him a two-yard route and he takes it for, whatever, 20-to-30 yards. Runs a great route, scores a touchdown. It’s just all the little things that he does that go so unnoticed.”

Kittle was also back to normal on the podium after the game. As always, he was gregarious and positive, never alluding that his injuries limited his performance.

He also added a bit of comedy in discussing finally running the play that he took for 61 yards into the end zone. 

“Oh my, we’ve been running that since Week 1,” Kittle said of the long touchdown. “And I have to run it like two or three times a week. That’s like a 50-yard route every single time. I’m just like, ‘Hey Kyle, relax. I’m a tight end.’ 

“We finally got the call and ran it, so that was pretty fun. It’s just a corner post. Perfect coverage to run it against. Jimmy gave me a perfect ball and I had to unhitch the trailer and out-run a couple guys. It was pretty fun.”

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The 49ers got Kittle back at the right time. They're on the road the next two weeks, facing the Baltimore Ravens (8-2) and New Orleans Saints (9-2).

Sunday showed just how much he helps.

NFL Draft 2020: Justin Jefferson, Jalen Reagor meet 49ers at combine


NFL Draft 2020: Justin Jefferson, Jalen Reagor meet 49ers at combine

Despite only possessing one pick before the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the 49ers still are doing their due diligence at the NFL Scouting Combine this week in Indianapolis.

San Francisco has met with a pair of wide receivers this week in LSU product Justin Jefferson and former TCU speedster Jalen Reagor.

Jefferson, who was part of LSU’s national championship-winning squad in 2019, said his meeting with the 49ers was informal, while Reagor mentioned that the team highlighted his versatility when discussing his potential fit within the offense.

Coming off a trip to the Super Bowl, the Niners aren’t faced with a lot of glaring needs along the roster, but wide receiver certainly ranks highly among the few holes general manager John Lynch must address this offseason.

The 49ers didn’t have a wide receiver eclipse the 1,000-yard mark last season, with All-Pro tight end George Kittle barely surpassing it (1,053).

Jefferson caught an NCAA Division I-best 111 passes for the Tigers in 2019 and closed out his final collegiate season with 1,540 yards. In the latest NBC Sports Bay Area mock draft, Jefferson wasn't available when the Niners were on the clock at No. 31.

[RELATED: 49ers have solid running backs, but group lacks something]

Reagor’s broad skillset likely would mesh well with the 49ers’ motion-heavy offense, as Reagor made big plays for the Horned Frogs in the running, receiving, and return game during his three seasons in Fort Worth.

This will be Lynch and Shanahan’s first opportunity to draft outside of the top five in the first round, as they hope to build on a breakout 2019 season.

49ers hoping receiver Jalen Hurd will be cleared for offseason program

49ers hoping receiver Jalen Hurd will be cleared for offseason program

INDIANAPOLIS -- Even before the 49ers have the opportunity to select a wide receiver in the draft, the club expects to add the services of a young pass-catcher.

Jalen Hurd, a third-round draft pick from a year ago, appears to be on schedule to receive clearance to rejoin the 49ers when the offseason program begins in April. Hurd spent his rookie season on injured reserve due to a stress fracture in his lower back.

“For it to completely heal, it happens on different timelines,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said. “We found that his has been stubborn. We think he’s been nearing towards a much better place where he’ll be cleared for all activities.

“(We) don’t want to officially give that word, but there have been some recent scans and things that give us a lot of hope that that’ll be the case, come April 1, he’ll be a full-go.”

Hurd was not around the team too much during his rookie season. He did not travel to Miami for Super Bowl LIV due to concerns about aggravating his back condition.

“I think there’s a little anxiety on his part that the long plane rides had set him off before and he worked so hard to try to get right, and kind of didn’t want that to enter the equation,” Lynch said.

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In order for Hurd's back to heal, the 49ers and Hurd felt it was best to keep him off his feet.  

“With his back stuff, he didn’t want to travel, didn’t want to be in the meetings and everything," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "There wasn’t much to do. He had a stress fracture and it’s taking a long time to heal, so we wanted him to be as immobile as possible.”

Hurd (6-foot-4, 227 pounds) caught 69 passes for 946 yards and four touchdowns in his senior season at Baylor in 2018. He played his first three college seasons at Tennessee, where he rushed for 2,635 yards and 20 touchdowns as a running back.

Hurd appeared in the 49ers’ preseason opener last summer and caught two touchdown passes against the Dallas Cowboys before experiencing the back condition that sidelined him for the rest of the season.