Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Colin Kaepernick Is Struggling
Let's make no bones about it, Colin Kaepernick is struggling. He lit the Packers up for over 400 yards and 3 touchdowns on opening day, and in the four games since he has not been able to eclipse the 200 yard mark and has a total of 3 touchdown passes to go with 4 interceptions.
The reasons for the struggles are many. Choose whichever one you would like to discuss. You can point to the injuries at wide receiver, the playcalling of the coaching staff, and Kaepernick himself. Let's break down each, and how they are effecting the 49ers passing game.
The offseason injury to Michael Crabtree has had a significant effect on Kaepernick's performance. Sure he doesn't have Mario Manningham either, but even when Manningham was healthy Crabtree was Kaepernick's go to guy. Crabtree was a huge yard after catch threat, which allowed Kaepernick to make easy underneath throws knowing he would pick up the extra yards for him. This also allowed the 49ers to work Vernon Davis over the top.
Anquan Boldin has been called upon to fill Crabtree's role this season, and like his quarterback he has been very inconsistent. Bolding opened the season with 13 catches for 208 yards, but he has a total of 13 catches for 187 yards in the 4 games that have followed. Boldin is not a YAC threat like Crabtree, so he is often tackled without much additional yardage. Boldin is also the most frequently targeted 49ers wide receiver, having been targeted on 42 (31.8%) of Kaepernick's pass attempts. The next closest wide receiver is Kyle Williams with 19 (14.3%).
The general perception with Kaepernick is that he is better when working out of the shotgun than he is from under the center. The numbers so far this season show another story though. Through the first five weeks of the season Kaepernick has a QB rating of 73.02 when throwing from the shotgun, and 94.02 when throwing a pass after taking the snap from under the center. Those numbers tell only part of the story though, as they are greatly effected by the 4 interceptions that he threw in losses to Seattle and Indianapolis.
The bigger difference that should be explored, and this is where the playcalling of the coaching staff comes in, is Kaepernick's rating when throwing off play action compared to a straight drop back. Kaepernick so far has a rating of 124.70 on play action throws, having completed 71% of these passes with an average of 10.57 yards per attempt, and 3 touchdowns with 0 interceptions.
Compare that to Kaepernick's stats on drop back passes. On these throws Kaepernick has a rating of 62.27, has completed 51% of his throws, with an average of 6.32 yards per attempt, and 3 touchdowns with 4 interceptions.
The numbers beg the question, why has Greg Roman been so reluctant to use play action? For a team that runs the ball as effectively as the 49ers have over the last 2 season this should be a point of emphasis. Not only does it force defenses to hesitate with their run reads, but it is a great way to help Kaepernick be successful while they wait for his security blanket to return.
By using play action, Roman is essentially taking away half of the field, and right now that would be a good thing for Kaepernick as he struggles to go through his progressions and trust his other receiving options. This would play to Kaepernick's current strengths by giving him a quick and simple 1-2 read progression, and help get the passing game going again.
For the most part Roman has done that the past 2 weeks. After going with drop back pass heavy game plans in losses to Seattle and Indianapolis, Roman has gone back to the pound on the ground, ball control style that took the team within 2 muffed punts of a Super Bowl berth in 2011.
Roman needs to skip trying to be the "mad scientist" and stick with the formula that served this team so well the last two seasons. If he does the team, and Kaepernick will benefit.