Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ George Kittle draws a comparison to Julio Jones from Kyle Shanahan

Jul 28, 2019 at 1:46 PM--

George Kittle is preparing for the follow-up to his record-breaking 2018 campaign. In case you hadn't heard, the San Francisco 49ers' second-year player set a new NFL record for single-season receiving yards by a tight end with 1,377 yards.

You probably already knew that, though.

Kittle has an impressive work ethic. It's not just his skills as a downfield threat that make him dangerous to opposing defenses. Kittle is also proud of his blocking. Very proud.

"When I first got to Iowa, I was 6-foot-2, and like 200 pounds, so I was definitely not a stereotypical tight end," Kittle said in January. "The first thing my strength coach said to me was if you want to play tight end at Iowa, you have to learn how to run-block. So that's something I took a lot of pride in, and I still do to this day.

"I personally think if you can move a guy from point A to point B against his will, that's a better feeling than scoring a touchdown, in my opinion. If you can put a guy on his back and he doesn't want to be on his back, it's a great feeling. There is not much that can beat that."

Kittle on Friday again stated that his favorite plays are those in which he doesn't have the football in his hands.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke with reporters about Kittle's team-first mentality, which drew a comparison to another player Shanahan coached when he was the offensive coordinator in Atlanta.

"I think it's great," Shanahan said. "I'm sure he's not telling the whole truth. Everybody would much rather have the ball but he George is a football player, and that's what you want. Football players don't care. I mean, they're competitive as can be, and if they believe in themselves, they want to help the team win. But if you're a football player, you can help the team win in any way possible. That's what George does.

"It's exactly how (wide receiver) Julio (Jones) was. I mean, he's getting double-teamed, he's not yelling at us for not getting him the ball. He's telling other guys they've got to make plays to help get him open. And that's how good football players are, and that's how good teams are. When your better players act like that, I think it teaches the younger guys how they should be."

How can Kittle further improve his game? Shanahan says he wants his tight end to beat his opponent, even if that opponent is perceived as a better player. He also wants to see more consistency in his route running. Sometimes, it is easy to forget that Kittle is just entering his third NFL season because of everything he has already accomplished.

"He can get better at a lot of things," Shanahan continued. "He can get better at blocking. I'd like to say he can get better at the run after the catch, but I do think that's the thing he's doing the best because he did that better than anyone last year. But just the consistency of beating man-to-man coverage, catching the ball, and trying to be the best."

One player who could benefit from Kittle demanding more attention from opposing defenses is wide receiver Marquise Goodwin. He also discussed Kittle's selflessness on Sunday.

"You see his mindset," Goodwin said. "He's just an all-around great dude. He's so selfless […] He didn't worry about getting the ball. He's worried about getting open and being productive for the team. He had the right mindset and I think that's why he was blessed with that opportunity.

"I can't say enough good things about him. I can't wait to see what he does this year, as well as the team."

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