San Francisco 49ers: How Will Teams Be Able To Slow Down Colin Kaepernick?


November 11, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) runs the ball during the fourth quarter against the St. Louis Rams at Candlestick Park. The 49ers and the Rams tied 24-24. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick burst onto the scene, as he led the Niners to within five yards of a Super Bowl victory. Kaepernick had an amazing second half of the season when he took over as the full time starter at quarterback. In seven starts, Kaepernick completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 1,849 yards and 10 touchdowns.

He also had impressive peripheral statistics as a passer. He led all players with at least 200 passing attempts in yards per attempt with 8.3 yards per attempt, and he posted the second-best yards per completion mark with 13.3 yards per completion. Kaepernick’s ability to immediately be productive and efficient in the passing game came as major surprise to many people around the league.

In addition to being highly productive as a passer, Kaepernick’s athleticism makes him a dangerous weapon on the ground as well. Kaepernick made a name for himself at the college level by being a dual-threat quarterback.

During his career, Kaepernick is the only Division-I quarterback to have passed for over 10,000 yards and rushed for over 4,000. He also tied for the record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 59. Many experts expected him to make his impact by running the football early in his career.

During the regular season, Kaepernick had 415 yards on 63 carries for a 6.6 yards per carry and five rushing touchdowns. Kaepernick had an even more impressive time carrying the football during the postseason. He set a record for most rushing yards in a playoff game by a quarterback with 181 yards in the divisional round match-up with the Green Bay Packers.

In the Super Bowl, Kapernick added 62 yards on seven carries against the Baltimore Ravens. In total, he had 264 yards on 25 rushes for 10.56 yards per carry and three touchdowns. Kaepernick is possibly the most dynamic dual-threat quarterback in the NFL and many teams have begun searching for answers to stop the rocket-armed, lightning-footed quarterback.

Many NFL teams have reached out to the college ranks, most notably the inventor of the pistol-offense and Kaepernick’s former head coach Chris Ault. Ault is the creator of the pistol-offense and Kaepernick is the player who elevated the offensive scheme to national recognition at the college level.

The pistol began its ascent to the NFL during the implementation of the spread offensives, as the NFL tried to take advantage of the highly athletic players coming out of the schemes. Recently, the Kansas City Chiefs hired Ault as a consultant to provide expertise on how to implement the pistol-offense and how to defend against it.

Many experts have begun looking at tape on Kaepernick and searching for keys on how to slow down the young star. Many of the keys come down to maintain edge discipline on the outside and not allowing Kaepernick to get to the edge. In a radio interview with ESPN, former NFL lineman Russ Tucker revealed his key to slowing down Kaepernick:

"“I would have the defensive end come crashing down the line and take the dive back – the running back – every time, and then have a linebacker scrape over the top, or a late filling safety, like Bernard Pollard, take the quarterback.”"

His plan is to take the running back out of the equation and force Kaepernick to the inside of the defense, where a linebacker or safety will be waiting for the cut back. His idea is echoed by Wally Buono, the General Manger of the B.C. Lions in the Canadian Football league, during an interview with Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun:

"“This is what’s amazing. If Atlanta had called us, the defensive coordinator, they could have stopped San Francisco’s running game. You don’t put the defensive end up on the quarterback, because when you do, the running back is going to cut off that guy every time. He’s going to get big yardage.”"

The key for these two experts is the defensive end. The believe the end should not recklessly crash down the line of scrimmage and go after the quarterback, as this creates the hole on the outside for the running back to cut up the sideline.

Another key to slowing down Kaepernick was shown by the Ravens during the Super Bowl. The Ravens would consistently bring extra blitzers off of the edge as a way to hem in Kaepernick. The Ravens did not want to allow Kaepernick to get to the outisde of the pocket, which is where he looks to pick up big chunk plays.

Kaepernick likes to take shots down the field, as he led the league in completion percentage on passes over 20 yards with 57.6 percent. In fact, half of Kaepernick’s 10 touchdown passes during the regular came on passes over 20 yards. A lot his ability to create the big play is his ability to get to the outside and keep plays alive long enough for his receivers to get down the field.

Teams will be looking for any advantage heading into next season as the Niners have a target on their back as one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. Stopping Kaepernick is the key to slowing down the Niners offense and his ability to beat teams with either his arm or his legs will force teams to pick which they would rather face.

The best chance to slow down Kapernick is to control the edges. Why?

Edge pressure and containment will prevent Kaepernick from getting outside the pocket, which will limit his big-play potential. Also, not allowing him to read the ends and force him to cut to the inside by taking the running back will prevent him from getting defense to crash down to allow the running backs huge running lanes on the outside. Teams need to stay within the scheme of the defense, as any lapse will allow Kaepernick the space to capitalize on it.