San Francisco 49ers: 2 Ways Colin Kaepernick Can Improve

Jan 19, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) scrambles under pressure of Seattle Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith (53) during the 2013 NFC Championship football game at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks defeated the 49ers 23-17 to advance to Super Bowl XLVIII. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Topics: Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers

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  • loverpoint

    Don’t blame Colin Kaepernick that a suitable WR was not signed to replace Crabtree.

    The 49ers made a feeble attempt at working Jon Baldwin into the offense.
    Vance McDonald never provided Kaepernick a target he could throw to.
    Greg Roman refuses to put plays in his game plan in which Kaepernick can throw to RB.

    The 49ers should use LaMichael James the same way in which Seattle used Percy Harvin, or how the Saints us Darren Sproles.

    • Tej Kamaraju

      I like your second point, but I’m not blaming Kaepernick. I’m simply saying that he, like every other quarterback, has plenty of room to improve. And this article really has nothing to do with Crabtree. It’s simply saying how he can throw a more catchable pass…

  • loverpoint

    Apparently you did not hear the explanation as to why Kaepernick did not run very much during the regular season. The 49ers have no backup QB and were afraid Colin would get hurt.

    • Tej Kamaraju

      That’s why he slides……. and your information is wrong, they do have a backup quarterback, but like every other team in the NFL except the Eagles, he’s not a big name one.

  • stoneguy

    In his first season replacing Alex Smith, Kap threw some soft touch passes in those first couple games that were amazing. Didnt see much of that this year. A major fault lies with Greg Roman’s play calling – WAY too predictable. Almost always a running place on first and second down resulting in too many 3rd and long situations which made it tougher to convert. And in the red zone, the play calling was even more predictable. Kap needs to work on his vision and checking down his receivers. He seems to focus on one guy when others are open. Maybe he should spend more time working on his game and less time doing commercials so he really earns the big money he is likely to get next season.

    • Tej Kamaraju

      Agreed. His pocket presence could use a lot of work. Good points, and I’m still wondering why Roman elected to throw that pass on first down.

  • Patrick Lanigan

    One thing that Kap can do to improve is to not play NINE games against the top 9 defenses in the league. Any article that talks about his passing statistics and fails to mention that he faced a historically brutal schedule of elite defenses is one that is missing the single biggest point. Until the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning had had the greatest season in NFL QB history. Against Seattle, he looked awful (never mind his meaningless record # of short passes).
    If Kap had faced Manning’s schedule, there is no doubt that he would not have passed for 5400 yards and 55 TDs, but it’s equally clear that he would have produced a hell of a lot more passing yards and TDs.

    • Tej Kamaraju

      There is no doubt in my mind that Kaepernick could have passed for 55 touchdowns. He is a great quarterback, but he needs to develop passing skills. I’m simply saying that he needs to work on his short-distance game. Sure, the Seahawks are a great defensive team, but how the heck can you give them ALL the credit for incomplete passes when in reality they may have just been under-thrown or uncatchable.