Buccaneers to face top tight end Week 1

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In regards to the casual football fan, talent above all else is recognized. Respect is established regardless of affiliation if the spectator or viewer can visually see the efforts, grit, and technique of an individual whose elite in his craft. Older fans have been spoiled by numerous craftsmen of the past with legends like Tony Gonzalez, Kellen Winslow, Sr., Shannon Sharpe, Mike Ditka, or Ozzie Newsome.

This decade has experienced the aforementioned Gonzales, the ageless Antonio Gates, and the great Rob Gronkowski. The position will always survive because it thrives through talent. Artists, entrepreneurs; giving and taking depending on the play. Carving a niche, outrunning linebackers, laying out linebackers; it requires the wiring of a genius or a mad man.

Recent years have produced tight ends who, when their careers are finished, will go down as some of the best to play the game.

Travis Kelce

Travis Kelce. Where to begin? The Bearcat hasn’t disappointed; averaging 12 yards per catch or better. Over a five-year span, he’s had 5,236 yards, 32 touchdowns and is a creator of first downs. He could probably give you 263 dance moves, too. He hasn’t had a bad season; his worst statistically, he fumbled four times his rookie season, while catching better than 75% of his targets. The last couple of years he’s also been figuring the touchdown game out. With the stellar emergence of QB Patrick Mahomes, Kelce couldn’t have better timing.

Zach Ertz

Zach Ertz is a premier player at the position. Entering his seventh year, Ertz has only gotten better year after year. His rookie campaign he averaged 13 yards per reception while catching 60% of his targets. Last year he exploded; catching an amazing 116 receptions off of 156 targets for 1,163 yards. Ertz was responsible for 66 first downs last year after winning a Super Bowl in 2017. He has only had four fumbles over his entire career.

And suddenly, there is the new blood in the tight end stream.

George Kittle

The 49ers’ George Kittle is the modern-day Jackie Smith; dangerous, elusive, strong and crafty. Kittle comes from Iowa, a school that’s known for producing quality tight ends. So it’s no surprise that he led his team in receiving yards last year. All the while, San Fransisco was absent its starting quarterback and first-string running back.

At 6’4, 250 pounds, Kittle is not an easy problem to fix. The fifth-round pick accumulated 1,377 yards off of 88 receptions (15.6 ypc). A reason for the inflated catch average might be due to his 3 catches of 70 yards or more. Against the L.A. Chargers, he snagged 125 yards off six catches and scored a touchdown off of an 82-yard reception. Against the Oakland Raiders, he produced a 71-yard reception with a total of four receptions on 108 yards. He went crazy against the Denver secondary, obtaining 210 yards off of seven receptions, one of which went for 85 yards. A tight end hasn’t had three receptions of 70+ yards since Marcus Pollard in 2001. And Kittle is just starting his career.

A Physical Freak

Kittle had four 100-yard games and seven games where his production on the field yielded more than 70 yards. If you listen to the analyst on ESPN and some on FOX, they would say that he is the third-best tight end in football right now. As previously mentioned, he’s an entrepreneur. A physical freak, who won’t shy away from contact and burn you on seam routes and sluggos. For fantasy purposes, he had 11 games where he had 13 points or more.  He led the NFL in yards after the catch (855) and he has a fetish for open green grass. So young, so smart, so Jackie Smith-like.

On September 8th, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be facing the 49ers to open the season. Kittle had one of his worst games against Tampa Bay last year; only recording six receptions off 13 targets for 48 yards. He also had a rushing attempt for 10 yards. Kittle didn’t have the full capacity needed to beat the Bucs that 25th of November. He will when he visits Raymond James Stadium again. Kittle is a matchup nightmare. He is smart and savvy from the line and after the catch. Plus, he’s a wrestling fan, so he’s not afraid of mixing it up with linebackers.

Todd Bowles will have his hands full preparing for the 49ers offense, including Tevin Coleman, a young and unproven receiving core, and the freak that gives opposing defenses nightmares – George Kittle.

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