On Tuesday, it was announced that the San Francisco 49ers had signed free agent wide receiver Kassim Osgood to a one-year contract. For being a wide receiver, Osgood’s numbers aren’t that impressive, having tallied 44 receptions for 749 yards and five touchdowns in his 10-year NFL career.
Osgood was signed because of what he can and should bring to the 49ers’ special teams unit. His special teams play has been recognized in the past as he has been a three-time Pro Bowl selection.
The 49ers’ special team play, and especially their kickoff coverage at times left much to be desired last season. All San Francisco fans remember the 108 yard kickoff return for touchdown that the 49ers gave up to Jacoby Jones of the Baltimore Ravens to start the second half of Super Bowl 46.
During the 2012 season, the 49ers special teams allowed opponents to an average of 26.9 yards per kickoff return and 6.9 yards per punt return. While the punt return defense was solid as a result of Pro Bowl punter Andy Lee, it even allowed a 75-yard return to Randall Cobb in Week 1.
In Osgood, the 49ers get that gunner who has an impact and whose presence on the special teams helps improve it immediately.
Playing as the gunner on kickoffs is to be the first player to prevent a quality kickoff from the opposition, force a turnover, or get in a big hit that gives your team momentum when taking the field to play defense. Although not a high profile position, a good gunner and his play can go a long way in preventing returners from getting an extra 5-10 yards.
Combined with the signing of Phil Dawson, who will now be the kicker, the 49ers’ special teams play should be much better and a solid unit as a result.