It’s not often that Bill Belichick says much of significance in a press conference, and even less frequent that he goes out of his way to praise someone.
That’s just what Belichick did on Monday, though, gushing (by Belichick’s standard) about one specific player whom his defense will be tasked with stopping: George Kittle.
Anyone who has watched the 49ers over the last year knows how important Kittle is to San Francisco’s offense, which often rises and falls with the production of Kittle. His presence instantly makes the 49ers’ offense more dangerous and explosive, something that hasn’t been lost on the wise defensive mind of Belichick.
“Kittle is a great player,” Belichick said, via ESPN. “He does everything well. I’d put him right at the top of the league there, period. His ability to run, catch, get open, after the catch, block, he does everything at a high level. He’s as good as anybody that I’ve coached or as good as anybody that we’ve played against.”
The praise doesn’t get higher than that from Belichick, and it comes with a key detail found between the lines, right around where Belichick mentioned any player he’s coached. That’s a group that includes Rob Gronkowski, a surefire future Pro Football Hall of Famer and widely considered to be the best tight end of his generation.
Kittle is on pace to become the tight end of his generation, but there’s no underestimating what Belichick said about the fourth-year tight end. For a coach who rarely says much about anything, putting Kittle in the highest class means the Patriots know exactly who they need to stop — but not expend too many resources to do so.
“If you pay too much attention to him, he creates opportunities for some of their other outstanding players,” Belichick said. “And if you don’t pay enough attention to him, then he can kill you. So he’s in a great system, he’s a great player. I don’t think there’s a tight end in the league, and we’ve seen a lot of good ones and had a lot of good ones, but I don’t think there’s anybody in the league that does everything overall as well as he does. He just really doesn’t have any weak points at all. Just outstanding at every phase of the game.”
Kittle missed two games this season due to injury, but has still managed to rack up 380 receiving yards and two scores in just four games. He’ll again be a focal point of San Francisco’s offense, as he always is, and Belichick’s defense will constantly be aware of No. 85’s location. We’ll see if they can stop him.