Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

George Kittle praises Jordan Matthews’ effort and progress in transitioning to tight end

Aug 20, 2021 at 1:09 PM--

If Jordan Matthews winds up not making the 49ers roster this season, it won't be due to a lack of effort.

Matthews is in the midst of making a challenging transition to tight end after playing the first seven years of his career at wide receiver. He's far from being a finished product at tight end, which is certainly something that would be expected at this point in his transition. But, according to teammate and fellow tight end George Kittle, Matthews has been making a top-notch effort to be successful in the switch to tight end and has shown noticeable progress.

"He's come a long way, honestly," Kittle said after Friday's joint practice session with the Los Angeles Chargers.

Kittle spoke at length about Matthews with reporters after Friday's practice and painted a clear picture of the effort Matthews has been making to get better. Helping Matthews along the way has been his ability to learn quickly and avoid making the same mistake twice.

"He works really hard every single day and he's taken steps forward every day," Kittle said. "He doesn't come out and have a bad day where he does five things bad. He might miss a block or he might not fully understand the route, but the next day, he's going to have those things down. He's going to do them perfect. That's his thing. I just appreciate that."

Matthews' effort is consistently on display according to Kittle, even when everyone else is taking it slow. That drive wound up earning him an entertaining label from the other tight ends.

"He's always got an engine," Kittle said. "We call him a 'tempo violator' because he always goes way too hard in walkthroughs. He laces up his cleats and full-speed routes. I walk. So he's a tempo violator, but you love that he's a guy that's got one shift. He's just going to go a hundred miles an hour."

Kittle also praised Matthews for the self-awareness he has shown regarding where he is in the transition process. Kittle says Matthews is honest about the strides he needs to make and is always asking how to improve.

"What I like about Jordan, he looks himself in the mirror," Kittle said. "He's like, 'I know I'm not very good at this, so how do I get better at this every single day?' He asks questions in our meeting room. He's on top of it. He knows what he's doing in our meeting room when he gets asked questions."

Matthews, who has 274 catches for 3,288 yards and 22 touchdowns over the course of his NFL career, is competing for a spot behind Kittle with Ross Dwelley, Charlie Woerner, MyCole Pruitt. But whether it's with the 49ers or another team, a successful move to tight end for Matthews would prolong a career that seemed to be at a crossroads after he played in just five games over the course of the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Spending the preseason with the 49ers gives him a great chance to get started on that journey because he gets the opportunity to learn from one of the NFL's best.

"What better tight end room to come into? You have the best (dual-threat) tight end in the league," Matthews told reporters earlier this week. "You can just watch George in the run game and the pass game and you're going to get an A-plus example on how to do everything that a tight end's going to be asked to do."

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