Say what you want about San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick’s recent struggles during the preseason-I believe he’s primed to quiet his critics starting Week 1. In last year’s opening game against the Green Bay Packers it was Kaepernick who showcased his potential, as he shredded the Packers defense by completing 27 of 39 passes for 412 yards and three touchdowns. Combine those numbers with Kap’s first-career start in Week 11 against the Chicago Bears, in which he lit up the Bears defense by completing 16 of 23 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns, you can see where Kaepernick’s value lies, as he has a knack for getting off to a fast start.
However, with Kaepernick going on the road as they face the Dallas Cowboys, he will face unchartered territory, as he has yet to play an opening game on the road to start his season. Will Kaepernick be fazed? Absolutely not. In Kaepernick’s last four regular-season road games, he has completed 76 of 118 passes for 875 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception. A 9:1 touchdown to interception ratio, Kaepernick was as efficient as any quarterback in the NFL. And it’s that type of trend that should continue against a struggling Cowboys defense.
Despite the Cowboys promoting Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli, the defense will still be a 4-3 base. Marinelli like 49ers DC Vic Fangio, rarely use more than four pass-rushers during the course of the game. And like Fangio, Marinelli will will usually send one inside linebacker to hit the A-gap on blitzes, meaning dig-routes and quick slants (slot) will be exposed. However, there will be about eight times where Kaepernick sees five or even six pass-rushers so he will need to account for this, as Marinelli from time-to-time loves to call a cornerback blitz from the slot. So I would say Cowboys CB Morris Claiborne may get some opportunities in the backfield. If that’s the case look for Kaepernick to call “Kill, Kill, Kill!” Switch up the play to some five-yard quick slants, curls and digs to keep the defense honest.
One player who may benefit from Marinelli’s scheme is six-year veteran WR Michael Crabtree. A player whose playing in a contract year, Crabtree should have his way on Sunday. Marinelli will surely have his corners playing bump-and-run which will then force the officials to throw a flag as the new rule changes are now in affect. If this happens look for Crabtree to benefit as his rare blend of hands, route-running, and agility should be enough to be Kaepernick’s security blanket. Whether running a 10-yard dig-route or five-yard quick-slant, Crabtree should have a big day as Kaepernick goes to him early and often.
And if Crabtree is covered under that Tampa Cover-2 then look for the ageless wonder WR Anquan Boldin and nine-year veteran TE Vernon Davis to benefit on those seam-routes between the 20’s. Davis and Boldin are both very smart route-runners and will find the soft spots in zone coverage so look for them to get their fair share of targets as Kaepernick extends drives both inside and outside the pocket.
With Kaepernick getting heat from many Bay Area fans, I can assure you he will be just fine on Sunday as he had his way against Marinelli’s defense in his first career-start (Chicago Bears), and he will do the same this time around, as I predict him to complete around 16 of 24 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns.