Can a healthy George Kittle have a breakout season for the 49ers?

San Francisco 49ers' George Kittle (85) is tackled by Indianapolis Colts' Malik Hooker during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

SANTA CLARA — 49ers tight end George Kittle took steps to add more muscle mass earlier this year in the hopes that it’ll prevent some of the injuries that bothered him throughout his rookie season in 2017.

Kittle’s also taken steps to help his wallet maintain its mass, as he’s been practicing catching the ball away from his body during informal throwing sessions with quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and CJ Beathard.

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As the 49ers went through OTAs late last month and started mini-camp on Tuesday, tight ends coach Jon Embree has continued to stress to Kittle the need for him to play with his hands away from his body to help him catch balls in tight quarters.

And when the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Kittle doesn’t do what Embree asks?

“I fine him,” Embree said. “Every time he jumps and lets the ball get on his body, he just puts money in our little (kitty) there. So you just keep doing that and keep driving it home.”

Considering Kittle is healthy again, has started to improve his fundamentals and the numbers he put up after Garoppolo became the starting quarterback last season, there’s reason to believe he can have a breakout year.

Last season, Kittle in 15 games finished with 43 catches for 515 yards as he dealt with injuries to his hip, chest, back and ankle at various times, starting with training camp.

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His ability to play through it and finish the year the way he did might have been one of the reasons why the 49ers opted not to seek outside help at tight end via free agency.

“We put a lot of pressure on George early because we needed to and it was up and down throughout the year,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said, “but he never shied away.”

In the last five weeks of the season when he started to get healthy, he had 15 catches for 224 yards and a touchdown, including a four-reception, 100-yard performance in the regular season finale against the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 31. Garoppolo completed 20 of 33 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns against the NFC West champions, as the 49ers won 34-13.

49ers tight end George Kittle (85) is tackled by Indianapolis Colts’ …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Sports

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