Training camp is exactly one month away from commencing in Santa Clara. Veterans and rookies will both report July 27th. At the moment, players and coaches are taking some much needed time away from the sport before the football grind.
That didn’t prevent 49ers GM John Lynch from giving 23 minutes of his time to Gary and Larry Tuesday on KNBR. Lynch listed a handful of players he’s excited about. None got a more gushing review than tight end George Kittle.
“A guy we got in the fifth-round is a guy who really flashed,” Lynch said. “He’s got some suddenness to him in his movements. He catches the ball extremely well. One of the things we knew is that we weren’t going to be able to build this to the way we want it in one year. I think George gives us something we don’t have in a playmaker down near the red zone, where you’ve got a one-on-one matchup. We’re confident we’re going to move the ball because Kyle knows how to put together an offense. And we’ve got guys who fit into what he wants to do. The speed, the separators, all that.
“One thing you have to be able to do, when you’re down near the red zone and everything tightens up, you have guys who man-on-man can just beat the guy in front of him. We were concerned we didn’t have that and were going to have to live without it for a year. We feel like George Kittle maybe gives us something where he is that guy, in a one-on-one situation you can flex him out, put him in the middle of the field and he can kind of impose his will and just out-athlete people. That has been extremely positive. We thought that coming in, but he probably exceeded our expectations.”
I noticed the same things about Kittle to close out minicamp. He reminds me of former Redskins tight end Chris Cooley. He’s slippery once he has the ball in his hands, and quick enough to beat safeties in the middle of the field. If it’s a coin flip between Kittle and some of the other well-traveled veterans, it would behoove the 49ers to go with the rookie. They aren’t developing a whole lot of young talent for a rebuilding team. The only other rookies who would be considered for a starting spot are the first-rounders — Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster. Kittle’s emergence should help this offense.
Lynch said Malcolm Smith’s athleticism at linebacker has been eye-opening, and that he disagrees with people who say the team overpaid for him. The GM also mentioned rookie Joe Williams showed up to the facility out of shape in April, but left on a really strong note. What about a roster holdover?
“I didn’t know much about Rashard Robinson, but when you watch him in OTAs, he looks like a No. 1 cornerback,” Lynch said. “That certainly was a position of need and a concern for us. Rashard has made us feel a lot better about that position.”
It’s understood that one of Lynch’s main goals is to spew positivity about the 49ers. He’s actually been phenomenal at winning the PR battles. The 49ers really haven’t done anything wrong since he was hired on Jan. 30.
Still it is encouraging to hear him name specific reasons why he’s excited about certain players. He ended the interview with Gary and Larry chatting about two receivers.
“Trent Taylor is exactly what we thought he’d be,” Lynch said. “He’s a guy that can flat out separate. You need when it comes to any down, but especially on third-down, you need guys that can just get open. He’s a guy we saw on film that just had an ability to do that against just about anyone. He’s carried that over to practice. He’s been fun to watch.
“Marquise Goodwin, I think one thing I saw when I studied Kyle Shanahan running offenses in Atlanta, he probably knew how to use speed more so than any offensive coordinator in this league. I’m really excited to see Marquise, a guy who clearly has that, be utilized in Kyle’s system. Those are two guys that come to mind that really jump.”