I know, I know…I’m going to hear it for this one.
I’m going to get raked over the coals, probably called some names…maybe even a hater. After all, it was only the San Francisco 49ers first preseason game. The starting offense played one series…one series! Still despite that, Sacco’s going to nitpick QB Colin Kaepernick? After three pass attempts, Al’s got the nerve to go after our quarterback?
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I guess I am, although I don’t want to. But his play made me nervous, as if I was watching a replay of the same bad movie.
The reason was that two of the three passes I saw Kaepernick throw Saturday night were basically a microcosm of exactly what his issues have been over the past couple of years. It’s as if he fell right back into old habits, even though he reportedly spent all offseason working to break them.
Pass one was just fine. Kaepernick hit his favorite target, WR Anquan Boldin, for 14 yards while in the shadow of his own endzone for a first down. Great start. Especially when you consider the team was backed up so far in their own end.
The second attempt started out beautifully, as Kaepernick had all of the time in world to set himself and unleash a deep ball to the 49ers big ticket free-agent signing, WR Torrey Smith. Smith was open, as he beat two defenders on the right side. Kaepernick simply over-threw him.
Now building a rapport with a new wide out takes time, and Kaepernick and Smith are still clearly feeling each other out. Throws that are off in Week 1 of the preseason could be right on target in Week 5 of the regular season, and all of this will look like some writer just over reacting.
This could very well be true, but it’s Kaepernick’s past performance in this area that has me worried about how he and Smith will ultimately gel. Believe it or not, the 49ers actually threw deep (20-plus yards) more often than all but six teams in 2014. However, on 69 attempts, Kaepernick only found his mark 22 times (32 percent). He managed four touchdowns but was also intercepted five times.
To his defense, Kaepernick didn’t exactly have much in the way of burners at his disposal last year, but those numbers still don’t speak for much in terms of accuracy on the deep ball.
The third time Kaepernick dropped back was probably to most concerning for me. Probably his biggest issue over the past couple of year has been breaking the pocket too early and running himself out of a possible completion. This was exactly what happened here.
I admit, I didn’t have the benefit of the game tape to see exactly what Kaepernick saw downfield. Maybe the coverage was locked down and there was nowhere to go with the football. Also, the rush was coming, and it did look the like the pocket was about to collapse. But to my untrained eye, it appeared as if Kaepernick had another second or so to hang in the pocket and look the make a good throw. A second may not seem like a lot, but it can be an eternity as far as a quarterback is concerned, and could be the difference between a positive and negative play.
Instead of staying put as long as he possibly could, it seemed as if Kaepernick broke away at the first sign of pressure and started running around. He eventually ran to the right sideline and threw the ball away for an incompletion. It was a sequence the 49ers and their fans have seen all too many times, and is the reason so many drives have ended prematurely.
Look, I’m not trying to destroy Kaepernick here. I’m really, REALLY, pulling for him. If he’s not the guy, the 49ers have a big problem, and he must show he can take that next step this year. While he has ample weapons around him, the offensive line is in flux and we aren’t sure exactly what the defense will be yet. This is a team screaming for their quarterback to take the next step and make them a yearly contender. San Francisco needs him to be the kind of player that can make them a playoff team just because he’s behind center.
We all hope that he can be that, and if I’m eating my words in the next couple of months I’ll be a very happy person. But Kaepernick has to show us more this season, especially when the lights turn brightest come Week 1.