The San Francisco 49ers are coming off another great season, just short of another Super Bowl appearance. The Niners are solid defensively speaking, but lack consistent offensive firepower. How can Colin Kaepernick pull the Niners’ offensive game from the slumps?
The Niners were not particularly great at passing the ball. When WR Michael Crabtree returned to the lineup after missing a great deal of the season with an achilles’ injury, they started to shape up throwing the ball, but with offensive weapons like Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin and Crabtree, Kaepernick should have been able to average at least 250 passing yards per game.
Being 30th in the league in passing yards, San Francisco had to get there power from somewhere: they were third in the league in rushing yards. It’s not hard to see what type of team they are, offensively speaking. But how many seasons does RB Frank Gore have as an elite player? He’s getting older, so if there was any time for the Niners to strike, it would be right now, before he digresses.
Because Gore is getting up there in terms of age, Kaepernick needs to run the ball voluntarily. He is one of the best rushing quarterbacks in the NFL as he is slippery and tough to take down when he’s in full flight. At 6-foot-5, he towers over all and streaks as far as he can with some particularly long strides. Instead of running the ball as a last resort, when he cannot find anyone open, I think that the Niners should give him the opportunity to scramble when possible.
To be an even better rushing team than they already are, Kaepernick simply needs to start running the ball more. It’s not hard to picture him averaging more than 90 rushing yards per game because again, he is one fast guy and he knows how to find a crease and turn it into a 30-yard gain.
Another way that the Kaepernick can improve his game is to learn how to put some soft touch on the ball. The only time that I see the ball actually travel in a parabolic form is when he’s going deep to Boldin or Crabtree.
When the passes are from 15 yards or less, he throws bullets. Don’t get me wrong, this technique proves to be effective in time conservation as well as advancing the ball as quickly as possible, but in the first, second or third quarter, he may be setting himself up to throw an interception, which is a huge blunder in a game.
If he gets the ball in the air and stops thinking like the great baseball pitcher he was, he may just be able to get the ball over the heads of defenders, avoid a pick-6, and gain a few extra yards with the offensive moves of his receivers. For example, two under-thrown passes for Kaepernick were contributing factors in the Niners’ slim loss to the Seattle Seahawks in this years’ NFC Championship Game.
Now those passes weren’t exactly bullets, but if the ball had more arch and touch on it, it would have been a gain instead of a costly pick in the biggest game of the year. Kaepernick’s passing game hasn’t always been solid, but he’s definitely got the potential to be a great dual quarterback in the sense of rushing and passing.
The only possible scenario in which a bullet pass is acceptable is if a player is making a cut across the field and is only open for a brief moment. This is a strength for Kaepernick. Otherwise, he cannot throw a bullet pass when there’s a cornerback in front of his receivers. He seems to do this a lot, making for a difficult catch or, even worse, an interception.
If he rushes more, and learns to pass more effectively from a shorter distance, the Niners’ offense will improve immensely. This is a team that is not known for its’ offensive intensity. If Kaepernick can help the Niners develop a reputation like that, they will be almost unstoppable, and surely able to beat the Seahawks when they inevitably meet again in the 2014 playoffs.