The good news for the 49ers passing game is that tight end George Kittle has emerged as one of the best young players at his position in the NFL.
The bad news is that Kittle has become the team’s go-to target because of the lack of production from the wide receiver group.
Kittle (23 catches, 399 yards), fullback Kyle Juszczyk (14 for 197) and running back Matt Breida (11 for 90) rank No. 1, No. 4 and No. 5 on the receptions list for the team through the first five games of this season. Only Pierre Garcon (16 for 188) and Trent Taylor (16 for 125) have 10 or more catches among wide receivers.
It’s a big turnaround from what was expected going into 2018. With Marquise Goodwin coming off a breakout season, Garcon returning from injury and second-round pick Dante Pettis joining Trent Taylor and Kendrick Bourne, it was believed quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo would have a number of targets to pick from every game.
Yet a first-game injury to Goodwin (who now has a hamstring problem to go with his earlier thigh injury) has hampered him ever since, Pettis is injured and Garcon hasn’t been able to put up the numbers he has in the past. And, with Garoppolo out for the year, the passing attack is adjusting now to the presence of second-year QB C.J. Beathard.
Wrote Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle this week: “Goodwin’s latest ailments help explain the painful numbers produced by the 49ers’ wide receiver corps. With Goodwin hobbled, it’s been a group headlined by Garcon, 32, who is off to a forgettable start. Garcon, who dropped a touchdown in Week 1 and had a pass carom off his hands for an interception Sunday, is on pace for a 51-catch, 602-yard season.”
Head coach Kyle Shanahan said this week that Pettis will miss Monday’s game against the Packers, and Goodwin is doubtful. That’s likely to mean more opportunities for Bourne, Victor Bolden Jr. and rookie Richie James, who had his first career catch vs. the Cardinals last week.
Though there are still 11 games left in the 2018 season, it’s possible that the 1-4 49ers already are thinking they’ll need to bolster the wide receiver group this coming offseason, either through the draft or free agency.
Monday’s game in Green Bay vs. the 2-2-1 Packers is set to begin at 5:15 p.m. (Bay Area time).