The San Francisco 49ers are coming off of a 2018 campaign in which they won just four games, but thanks to a roster full of young talent on both sides of the football, there is a lot of hope in the Bay for the future.
The 49ers are not expected to make the playoffs in 2019, but the general feeling is that they will show some marked improvement from a year ago, and because they are the Niners, that means there will be some pressure on them going into this season.
So, here are the three 49ers players under the most pressure heading into 2019.
3. George Kittle
George Kittle enjoyed a record-breaking season in 2018, setting the single-season mark for most receiving yards by a tight end with 1,377.
There is no reason to believe that Kittle won’t be a monster again this year, and while people aren’t asking him to replicate his ridiculous 2018 campaign, everyone is still expecting him to be really good, which does place some pressure on his shoulders.
Remember: Kittle is, by far, the most reliable pass-catcher in San Francisco’s offense. The 49ers have some talented young wide outs, but they are very unproven, so Jimmy Garoppolo is going to have to depend a whole lot on Kittle to make plays.
Again, Kittle should be just fine, but now, he has set a bar that he will have to perpetually live up to, and that is never easy.
2. Dante Pettis
The general expectation all offseason long has been that Dante Pettis will go into 2019 as the 49ers’ No. 1 receiver, but head coach Kyle Shanahan doesn’t seem prepared to hand him the job.
Of course, Shanahan could merely just be employing typical coaching strategies in order to keep Pettis on his toes, but the youngster really has not done nearly enough to lock down the No. 1 job, so Shanahan might be entirely serious.
Pettis is battling with fellow neophytes Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd, both of whom are incoming rookies. Pettis is entering his second year, so he has the benefit of seniority, but it’s like he was so fantastic during his rookie season where he is head and shoulders above the rest of the group.
Basically, Pettis will probably end up winning the No. 1 job, but he will still have to battle in order to hold on to it all year long. Samuel and Hurd are coming, and Pettis has to be ready to fend them off.
1. Jimmy Garoppolo
When the Niners traded for Garoppolo back in October 2017, everyone thought they had finally found their franchise quarterback, but did they really?
Garoppolo has made just eight starts for the 49ers since arriving, posting mainly mixed results before going down with a torn ACL three games into the 2018 campaign.
Since then, Garoppolo has been on the road to recovery, and it has not been easy or pretty.
Whether it was a practice in which he threw five consecutive interceptions or his first preseason game where he went just 1-of-6 with a pick, Garoppolo has not looked good.
Obviously, it’s way too early to jump the gun or hit the panic button, especially considering he is coming off ACL surgery, but this dude signed a $137.5 million contract extension with San Francisco in February 2018, so immediate results are kind of expected.
The 49ers can also get out of that contract after the 2020 campaign, so it’s not like Garoppolo has forever to work things out.