If you look at the game books, they'll tell you that Daniel Kilgore appeared in five games this season for the San Francisco 49ers. But if you ask the center yourself, you'll get a slightly different answer.
"The first four were like my preseason," Kilgore told reporters last week. "This last one was probably the best that I've personally played as far as feeling good with my mechanics and technique."
Kilgore spent the first three months of the season on the Physically Unable to Perform List after undergoing two surgeries to repair a leg fracture he suffered in October of 2014 versus the Denver Broncos. The 49ers activated Kilgore on Dec. 5, and he made his season debut a day later in Chicago against the Bears.
Kilgore started the final three games of the year and helped stabilize a unit that lost Alex Boone to injury and rotated in young players like Andrew Tiller and Trent Brown. According to STATS LLC, the 28-year-old did not draw a holding or false start penalty this season. Moreover, he surrendered just 0.75 sacks.
Who and where will the San Francisco 49ers play in 2016? Take a look at the team's schedule next year.
Although he would've liked to play more, Kilgore thought it was crucial to return to the field this year and avoid entering the 2016 campaign on a 22-month hiatus. The center added that his surgically-repaired leg held up "perfect" in game action.
"Now it's really about going in and watching the film and seeing where I can get better," Kilgore said. "Obviously 2014 was probably the best that I was playing, so this offseason is going to be huge to get back to that form. I'm going to really work to get back to that shape."
When Kilgore returns for the start of the offseason program this spring, he'll have a new head coach and likely a new offensive system to learn. But with a relatively young core of offensive lineman around him, Kilgore is confident the group will be able to quickly adapt.
"We're capable of doing whatever this new head coach wants to do," Kilgore said. "We have some big, athletic guys. Guys with some length who can really move bodies and have speed."
Kilgore saw that potential in his team's final game of the season, when the 49ers limited one of the best defensive front's in the league, the St. Louis Rams, to just one sack in a 19-16 overtime victory.
"It shows that we do have a little bit of depth with how guys had to step in and play," Kilgore said. "It felt good. We racked up more than 450 yards, so that's pretty good against that defense. It's encouraging to go into this offseason and build off it."