49ers overreactions: George Kittle's lack of production cause for concern?

49ers overreactions: How concerning is Kittle's lack of production? originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Jimmy Garoppolo.

There.

We got that out of the way.

No 49ers Overreaction piece would be complete without some mention of Garoppolo, who rebounded Monday night with a solid performance in the 49ers’ crucial 24-9 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.

Garoppolo was steady, Deebo Samuel was, well, Deebo Samuel, and the 49ers’ defense was stellar in holding the Rams without a touchdown for the first time in the Matthew Stafford era.

So for this edition of 49ers Overreactions, we’ll press pause on any Garoppolo talk and focus on some other areas of the team.

Overreaction? No.

Instead of saying Kittle’s “usage” is disappointing, probably the better way to word it is that his “production” has not approached expectations.

In two games, Kittle has been targeted nine times. He has six receptions for 52 yards.

He could have had a touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter but he failed to get both feet inbounds at the back of the end zone.

I have a difficult time classifying it as a bad game for Kittle, however, because he provided two huge blocks on the two plays that went for long offensive touchdowns.

Kittle is no longer a top receiving threat among NFL tight ends ... or, at least, he has not been for a while.

In his last eight games, including the playoffs, Kittle has averaged just 2.6 receptions for 27.5 yards per game.

Is that Kittle’s fault for not getting open? Is that the quarterback’s fault? Is it offensive design? Or are defenses doing a good job of containing Kittle?

Whatever the case, Kittle has to become more involved in the passing game or the 49ers’ offense will not come close to maxing out this season.

Overreaction? Yes.

Shanahan considered going for it after the 49ers had already been stopped near the goal line on second and third down.

The 49ers had the ball just inside the 2-yard line early in the fourth quarter.

But at that stage, the 49ers had a five-point lead. It made sense to kick the field goal, especially when the 49ers’ offensive line was in such flux and the team’s running game has not been good in short-yardage situations.

We don’t believe you can look at a chart for a definitive black-and-white decision. The flow of the game and the circumstances are the overriding factors.

And in this situation, it made perfect sense to take the points and go up by eight points with as well as the 49ers’ defense was playing.

In the big picture, the 49ers were in the Super Bowl three seasons ago. They made it to the NFC Championship game last season.

Other than the teams that won the Super Bowls in each of the past three years, the 49ers have been No. 4 in the NFL over that time when it comes to putting themselves in contention for championships.

Overreaction? Yes.

We’re not there quite yet, in declaring the current vintage of the 49ers’ D as 2019ish.

This might not sound real intelligent, coming off a seven-sack performance, but we still have some questions about the pass rush being at the elite level.

That 2019 team had Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead (and Dee Ford, here and there).

Armstead had his career year. He has not been healthy this season. Bosa is an absolute superstar. He is the only pass-rusher that teams have to identify.

Where the 49ers are better on the defensive front is they have more depth. They come at teams in waves and rarely have to send more than four pass-rushers.

The defensive backfield is deeper and better than it was in 2019.

Through four games, the 49ers have been feasting on some really bad offensive teams. The Rams are not a bad offense, of course. But their offensive line was in a sorry state on Monday night.

It might not be an accurate classification to call this an overreaction, but we here at 49ers Overreactions Central believe it’s still a bit premature for lofty labels.

Overreaction? No.

Second-year safety Talanoa Hufanga is most certainly elite.

He plays with energy, passion, awareness and smarts. He’s got it all.

It is difficult to imagine he could have played much better in these first four games of the season.

He did it on the national stage Monday night, which is a big step toward him getting Pro Bowl (or even All-Pro) consideration.

RELATED: Whitner confidently calls Hufanga best safety in NFL

This seems to be a good time for a young safety, such as Hufanga, to step forward and earn accolades.

The first-team All-Pro safeties last season were Tennessee’s Kevin Byard and Buffalo’s Jordan Poyer. The second teams were Denver’s Justin Simmons, Buffalo’s Micah Hyde and Arizona’s Budda Baker.

Those are all good players, of course, but the door is open for Hufanga to join those players at the top of the class.

"Gipson is playing better than Ward has ever played." (via @ottomattick0)

Overreaction? Yes.

Veteran Tashan Gipson has stepped into the 49ers’ lineup and performed at a high level.

It took him all of about a week at the end of training camp to beat out Tarvarius Moore and George Odum to start in place of Jimmie Ward.

Gipson has a Pro Bowl on his resume, and that’s something that has eluded Ward during his career.

Ward, however, is a valued member of the team and considered one of the 49ers’ best players.

When he’s ready to return from a hamstring injury, he will reclaim his starting role.

But it's also clear that the 49ers now have three starting-caliber safeties on their roster, and that could provide some more options for defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans when he game plans for specific opponents.

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