Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Colin Kaepernick and the quick read conundrum
If you have followed any coverage of the 49ers this season a common theme has been that Colin Kaepernick is seemingly unable to go through his progression and hit his third or fourth receiving option. With this in mind I went back and reviewed the film of the most recent game against Tennessee. What I came away with proved this to be somewhat correct.
On Sunday, Kaepernick attempted 21 passes. On 19 of those attempts the pass went to either the first or second read, leaving only 2 for a 3rd or 4th option. Kaepernick ended up 11-19 on those 1-2 read throws and 2-2 on those in which he had to to go his 3rd or 4th option.
Of those first/second option throws, the only one that was truly a bad decision doesn't even show up in the stat sheet. In the middle of their first possession of the second quarter the 49ers faced a 1st and 10 on the Titans 38 yards line and offensive coordinator Greg Roman called his go to shot play, a play action wheel route to Vernon Davis with a deep post by Kyle Williams. Kaepernick ended up throwing throwing the ball to Davis, missing a wide open Kyle Williams down the middle of the field. The throw was intercepted by Bernard Pollard, but fortunately for the 49ers a personnel foul on Tennessee wiped out the play, and gave the drive new life.
All of this led me to ask 2 questions, the first being, why does it matter if he is throwing to only the first or second option if that person is open?
My second question is, how is Greg Roman and his offensive staff making it so that the first two options are open so often?
From what I am seeing it is the versatility of Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald, and Bruce Miller. On Sunday the 49ers threw the ball from their 22 or 12 personnel 11 times, and from their 21 personnel 7 times. The first pass of the game is the perfect example.
Facing a 3rd and 3 from their own 16 the 49ers go to the line with 22 personnel, 2 RB's and 2 TE's, but they line up with Bruce Miller wide left, and Vance McDonald wide right, leaving Anquan Boldin in the right slot and Davis as the TE. They run mirror routes on both sides, with Davis and Boldin running corner routes with short hitch routes on the outside by McDonald and Miller. The end result is a 24 yard completion to Davis.
And then there is the 20 yard completion in the 2nd quarter to McDonald. On this play the 49ers come to the line with 23 personnel, 2 RB's and 3 TE's, the third tight end being backup lineman Adam Snyder. With Snyder lined up in the TE position, Davis and McDonald line up wide, Davis to the right and McDonald to the left. After play action, Kaepernick rolls to his right looking for Davis who is running a deep corner, Gore in the flat, with McDonald dragging across the field. Davis and Gore are well covered, but Kaepernick is able to buy enough time for McDonald to eventually come open for the completion.
All of these are key examples of why I believe all of the talk about the 49ers needing to acquire a wide receiver is off the mark. The 49ers are a power run team, and with the versatility of Davis and McDonald they are able to threaten the defense with both the run and pass from a variety of formations.
Some will point to how well the Seahawks have handled Davis over the last two meetings. That is a valid point, but I would ask them to go back and review the last time the 49ers defeated Seattle. In that game the 49ers moved the ball through the air by working the ball underneath to Frank Gore, and Delanie Walker to score the game winning touchdown. This was done even with their best wide receivers healthy.