The San Francisco 49ers are gearing up for a consequential season, as it will be the first with Trey Lance as their full-time starter at quarterback.
Many are hopeful for their chances this year, as they have assembled a talented and balanced squad that should give him a good chance at being successful right away.
One teammate who is an important part of what San Francisco does is tight end George Kittle.
Unfortunately, Kittle has a groin ailment right now, and he sat out practice on Wednesday.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan said that Kittle is being considered day-to-day moving forward.
#49ers TE George Kittle won’t practice today, and is day to day with a groin injury, per Kyle Shanahan. pic.twitter.com/bjyJ0AIFnM
— OurSF49ers (@OurSf49ers) September 7, 2022
With just over 72 hours to go before the 49ers’ season opener at the Chicago Bears, this means there’s a chance he won’t be cleared to play in that contest.
Kittle Is Key To San Francisco’s Offense
A fifth-round draft pick in 2017, Kittle had a solid but unspectacular rookie season with 515 yards and two touchdowns.
But the following year, he blossomed, putting up 1,377 yards and five touchdowns while earning his first of three Pro Bowl selections.
Kittle may not be the best tight end in the NFL, as that accolade is usually given to the Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce, but he is one of the best at his position.
Last season, the University of Iowa product put up 910 yards and six touchdowns despite missing three games because of a calf injury.
Injuries have always been somewhat of an issue for him, as he sat out eight contests in 2020 and two more the year prior.
He Will Be Important To Lance’s Development
Early in the season, as Lance starts to get acclimated to being a full-time QB1 and facing opposing teams’ best efforts each week, San Francisco will likely try to play it safe offensively.
That means running the football a lot and more short-to-medium range passes in order to limit Lance’s mistakes and prevent his confidence from being dented.
Kittle will help with that, especially since he has a decent pair of hands.
He has a career catch rate of 72.4 percent, and he was at 75.5 percent in that category last season.
Kittle is more than just a pass-catcher, as he averaged 6.3 yards after the catch in 2021, which ranked 16th in the league.
Having a target like that who is reliable will be huge for Lance, as he needs to viscerally experience his passes being caught by their intended receiver in order to build his confidence and rhythm.
Luckily, if Kittle isn’t able to play on Sunday, the 49ers have a couple of men who can step up and pick up the slack.
Wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who had a breakout 2021 campaign that sent him to both the Pro Bowl and All-Pro First Team, is very capable of having a big game.
In addition, third-year wideout Brandon Aiyuk has emerged as a reliable option downfield.
Jerry Rice is expecting a breakout season for #49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk 💫 #FTTB || Via @957thegame
📷: @49ers || @brandonjtam pic.twitter.com/7Sj6otho7y
— OurSF49ers (@OurSf49ers) August 29, 2022
In fact, many believe Aiyuk is poised to have a breakout season.NEXT: NFL Insider Thinks Trey Lance Will Be Benched By Midseason