The 49ers’ specialist situation sees one new face from last season, as the incumbents, long-snapper Kyle Nelson and punter Bradley Pinion are joined by kicker Robbie Gould. Last season the 49ers’ specialists were consistently good, with Pinion being the sole player to struggle noticeably on occasion.
Fans will hope that Pinion’s preseason performances carry into the regular season, as he has looked more accurate and capable of controlling his booming leg. The field position battle is a vastly underrated part of the NFL, and a good year by Pinion could see the team win the field position battle more often than they lose it – ensuring long field for opposing offenses and short field for the 49ers’ offense.
Equally key in the field position battle is long snapper Kyle Nelson. The best compliment you can give a long snapper is that you do not notice him (as well as the fact that it upsets me that you can’t make Nelson the long snapper on franchise mode on Madden). Nelson has been consistently accurate and has ensured the 49ers haven’t had the sort of long-snapping gaffes that are frequently an exclamation point on a poor team’s season. As the team (hopefully) improves, Nelson will undoubtedly be tasked with maintaining his consistency and ensuring that the 49ers’ improvements are not checked by poor long snapping.
Robbie Gould’s success will certainly depend a lot on the qualities of Nelson. Despite Gould’s advancing years, the 49ers got younger at the kicker position as they waved goodbye to Phil Dawson. Gould was pretty consistent at the Giants last season, and made a career in famously difficult conditions in Chicago. The new man will have lofty standards to reach, though most fans will hope that his main role is kicking extra points or chip shot field goals. Gould’s performances in preseason and indeed across his career suggest (much like most NFL kickers in fairness), that he cannot be relied on to consistently land from long range if the offense repeatedly stalls.
Image courtesy of 49ers.com