Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle's Growing Rapport Could Pay Dividends in 2018

Jimmy Garoppolo is not shy about keeping his offense on the field post-practice to fine tune the details that can make all the difference on gamedays. Last week, Garoppolo spent time after practice to work on deep passes with a few of the San Francisco 49ers receivers. On Sunday, Garoppolo held George Kittle and the rest of the 49ers tight ends on the field for some extra reps before clocking out for the day. 

“It’s kind of what separates you, I guess,” Garoppolo said. “Everyone’s putting in the same amount of practice time, but whoever stays after, you’re getting a little extra work in. So, there’s a fine line during camp. You don’t want to kill guys and they run a lot more than I do so we’ve got to take care of their legs a little bit.”

The extra reps appear to be paying off for Garoppolo and Kittle. On Friday, the two connected on several passes including back-to-back completions during the team’s two-minute drill. Garoppolo also hit Kittle for a 25-yard touchdown to highlight a red-zone period.

Based on the early showings, the duo have flashed big potential heading into the season.

“I think George is one of those guys that puts in a lot of extra work,” Garoppolo said. “Whether it’s staying after practice, talking in film sessions, he always asks me questions about his routes and stuff like that.”

Despite an injury-plagued season, Kittle managed to put up 43 catches for 515 yards and two touchdowns. He was second among rookie tight ends in yardage, behind Evan Engram of the New York Giants (744). Garoppolo's arrival also played a role in Kittle's Year 1 progression. Over the 49ers final five contests, Kittle caught 15-of-19 targets for 224 yards.

In addition to Kittle, the 49ers have Garrett Celek, who will also be used frequently in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Kittle's ability as a pass catcher and Celek's ability as a blocker make them essentially co-starters for the 49ers.

“Every offense has its own little quirks and things like that,” Garoppolo added. “But here, we have a couple of different weapons at tight end. It’s nice to have that at your luxury.”

Kittle recently rounded out Pro Football Focus’ top 10 tight ends heading into 2018. Kittle has emerged as one of Garoppolo’s favorite targets, which means he could be primed for a breakout year.

“We were very impressed with Kittle last year," Shanahan said. "He was banged up a lot last year and he came in very healthy. He’s also worked. He’s got his explosiveness back. He’s a physical guy who can block well and he’s got a year in the system where he’s got a lot more confidence. So, he’s not thinking as much out there. He’s definitely moving in the right direction.”

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