Jimmy Garoppolo believes George Kittle and Rob Gronkowski have a lot in common. He’ll need Kittle to play like Gronk to win big in 2019.
The 49ers need a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo to emerge as a starter this season. If that’s going to occur, Garoppolo is going to need to develop some prolific weapons in the passing game. Tight end George Kittle is the most talented receiver on San Francisco’s roster.
Fortunately for fans in the Bay area, Garoppolo has a ton of confidence in Kittle. He watched the 25-year-old tight end put up big numbers without him last season. In fact, Garoppolo also thinks that Kittle shares a lot of traits with a certain tight end he played with during his Patriots days.
Garoppolo recently told reporters that Kittle reminds him a lot of Rob Gronkowski “on the field and a little bit off the field.” In terms of their personalities, both tight ends approach the game with a great deal of passion. Kittle doesn’t quite have the off-field persona that made Gronkowski so intriguing to fans, but that’s not necessary for him to develop into an All-Pro player at his position.
The on the field comparisons are much more important to the 49ers hopes of earning a postseason berth this season. That’s why Kittle’s production last season is so encouraging for the franchise. If he can manage to catch 88 passes for over 1300 yards without his franchise quarterback at the helm, it’s fair to wonder what he can do with a healthy Garoppolo under center.
Kittle certainly won’t sneak up on opposing defenses in his third NFL season. Instead, he’ll be at the top of a lot of opposing scouting reports. The 49ers have some intriguing talents at the wide receiver position, but the lack of proven commodities at that position means that Kittle has to be elite in 2019. He can’t afford to suffer any sort of reduction in production if Garoppolo is going to play at a Pro Bowl level. That’s likely what will be required to get the 49ers into the playoffs.
That isn’t to say that Kittle can be the only above-average receiver in the offense. At least one of the team’s projected three starters must also turn into capable weapons for Garoppolo. It’s highly unlikely that Jordan Matthews will develop into anything more than an average starter. That means it’s up to either Dante Pettis or rookie Deebo Samuel to step up in a big way.
When the game is on the line, it’s still going to be up to Kittle to take on a starring role in this offense. He doesn’t need to be Gronkowski, but no one on the 49ers coaching staff would be upset if he grew into that sort of player. The fact that he’s even in contention to be such a dynamic tight end is great news for Garoppolo and his offense.