49ers

How Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne enhanced 49ers' offense last season

How Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne enhanced 49ers' offense last season

No stat is perfect, and that includes passer rating. One thing needs to be clear: It's not just a quarterback stat. 

Instead, passer rating showcases the passing offense as a whole and heavily weighs big plays. Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne clearly strengthened the 49ers' passing offense. All you have to do is look at Jimmy Garoppolo's passer rating when targeting the two receivers. 

Pro Football Focus published an article Thursday that proved just how much the two enhanced San Francisco's passing offense. Garoppolo had a 121.1 passer rating when targeting Bourne, good for the ninth-best among receivers. Samuel was right behind as a rookie with a 120.2 passer rating.

Samuel's 74 percent catch rate also was the seventh-best among receivers in the entire NFL last season. 

Garoppolo targeted Samuel 81 times last season, according to Pro-Football Reference, and had a 70.4 completion percentage when throwing it the rookie's way, with a 109.2 QB rating. He targeted Bourne 46 times and had a 67.4 completion percentage with a 109.0 QB rating.

[RELATED: 49ers believe Aiyuk can fill void left by Sanders' departure]

Samuel is expected to be the 49ers' No. 1 receiver in his second professional season this year. He perfectly fits Kyle Shanahan's scheme of deception. Bourne, on the other hand, was relied upon in the red zone and led all 49ers wide receivers with five touchdowns in 2019. 

The 49ers might not have a superstar receiver yet, but it's clear this group is full of talent.

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49ers' George Kittle falls short of 99 Madden 21 rating according to leak

49ers' George Kittle falls short of 99 Madden 21 rating according to leak

George Kittle is the best tight end in football, and arguably the best receiver regardless of position. Full stop.

But while the 49ers tight end has become a household name during his three-year NFL career, it appears his exploits have not been enough to get him into a very select club: The "99 Club."

Details from Madden 21 slowly have been trickling out, and a potential leak by Twitter user "LeadingNFL" showed which players have been given a 99 overall rating in the latest iteration of the popular game. While Patrick Mahomes, Christian McCaffrey, Aaron Donald and Stephon Gilmore all got the nod, Kittle came up just short in his quest for video game greatness.

For the 49ers fans who care about such things, this should be seen as disrespectful to the premier tight end in the NFL. While Kittle is grouped with star receivers Michael Thomas and De'Andre Hopkins, a case can be made that Kittle deserves to be a member of the "99 Club," due to his ability to break tackles and his dominant ability as a run-blocker.

You'll find no arguments from me on any of the four members of the "99 Club."

Mahomes cemented himself as the best quarterback in the NFL when he erased a 10-point deficit against Kittle and the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV. He's an unquestioned 99. As is Donald.

Gilmore was the best cornerback in football last season, and has been as dominant as they come since joining the New England Patriots. McCaffrey put up a tremendous season in 2019 despite being saddled with below-average quarterback play for the entire season. He's as elite a weapon as the NFL has to offer.

[RELATED: Kittle questions social distancing in 2020 NFL]

But Kittle belongs in that conversation. Kittle caught 85 passes for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns last season, and his catch-and-run against the New Orleans Saints was the type of memorable play that won't soon be forgotten.

Kittle, who is trying to work out a contract extension with the 49ers is in good company with Thomas and Hopkins. Those two, along with Julio Jones, are the three best receivers in the NFL and Kittle certainly belongs on their level.

It's hard to break into the "99 Club." Perhaps one more season of dominance will get Kittle the point he needs to join video game immortality.

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Ex-49ers teammate explains why Colin Kaepernick fits in today's NFL

Ex-49ers teammate explains why Colin Kaepernick fits in today's NFL

Around the NFL, every team is looking for the next Patrick Mahomes. The next Lamar Jackson, the next Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson. 

The 49ers had exactly that in Colin Kaepernick, a game-changing dual-threat quarterback.

Seven-year pro Michael Thomas saw that firsthand back in 2012, the first year Kaepernick took over for Alex Smith as the 49ers' starting QB and led them to the Super Bowl. Thomas was a safety on the San Francisco's practice squad that year before carving out a role with the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants. He even made the Pro Bowl in 2018. 

And Thomas finds it unexplainable how NFL teams aren't fighting to get Kaepernick's skill set on the field. 

"He’s the type of quarterback that today’s NFL is built for," Thomas wrote as the guest writer for NBC Sports' Peter King's "Football Morning in America" column. "It’s built for the mobile quarterback, it’s built for the quarterback who can run but also throw. He’s that dual-threat option. He’s mobile, and he has a big arm that can hit the deep threat. He causes confusion for defenses if he gets into any kind of zone-read option. And obviously the RPO game is bigger than ever.

"Set aside for a second what the league would gain in terms of credibility by bringing him back. From a pure football standpoint, his style fits the league perfectly."

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Over his six-year career, five as a starter, Kaepernick has totaled 12,271 passing yards and 72 touchdowns through the air. He also has 2,300 career rushing yards and another 13 TDs. 

But Kaepernick hasn't played in the NFL since 2016, the same year he began first sitting then kneeling during the national anthem as a peaceful protest against racial and social injustices. Thomas, as a member of the Dolphins, played against Kaepernick that season and the QB was dominant. 

The less talented 49ers lost 31-24 in Miami, but Kaepernick's ability as a passer and runner were on full display. He completed 29 of 46 pass attempts for 296 yards, three touchdowns and was intercepted once. He also rushed 10 times for 113 yards, his last game with at least 100 yards rushing. 

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The 49ers were just 1-9 going into the game against the 6-4 Dolphins. Kaepernick was tackled at the 2-yard line to end the game, just falling short of completely putting the team on his back in a rough road environment.

That also was nearly four years ago. There are no guarantees Kaepernick plays another game of football in his life. To Thomas, that's baffling, and understandably so.