Back in December, an article on the website Sports On Earth focused on the disappointing season of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
The story, headlined, “The Regression of Colin Kaepernick,” focused on his struggle with turnovers and his smaller numbers in yards and touchdown passes in 2014 from 2013. It also cited his free fall in ratings by the football analytics site Pro Football Focus. In 2012, Pro Football Focus ranked Kaepernick as the No. 15 quarterback in the NFL. In 2013, he was 18th. In 2014, he was No. 31.
Even his effectiveness as a runner came into question, because the 49ers were using fewer option plays and designed runs. He also was sacked 52 times, a huge total for a quarterback with speed.
Wrote Andrew Garda: “Maybe Kaepernick just isn’t all that good. Maybe he’s peaked already, and now that he has been in the NFL a few years, teams have figured out how to counter him. …
“It’s entirely possible that what we are seeing are all the concerns people had about Kaepernick coming out of college, realized. Athleticism and arm strength can only take you so far when you cannot handle the basic requirements of being a QB – delivering the ball under pressure in the pocket.”
It’s possible that Garda is right. Since writing his analysis, the 49ers have lost a number of key players in free agency and through retirements and the new coaching staff has yet to prove itself. This 49ers team goes into 2015 with huge question marks at several positions.
Yet the word around the NFL seems to be that Kaepernick’s poor season in 2014 could be just a brief wrong turn and that he’ll regain his momentum in 2015.
Since going on his own to Arizona to work with former NFL QB Kurt Warner and others – to refine his mechanics and learn how to better read defenses – Kaepernick by many accounts is a different-looking player. Videos of him in organized team activities (OTAs) and other recent workouts seem to show him with a better stance and quicker, more compact release. Teammates raved about him.
And – as much as former head coach Jim Harbaugh was his biggest fan – it’s possible that a change in coaching staffs and philosophies could actually help him thrive (along with some new speed at wide receiver).
Speaking this week, NFL analyst Adam Schefter of ESPN says the news out of 49ers camp is all positive about Kaepernick.
“That’s the one thing you have heard from this organization, that he’s asserted himself as a leader in a way that he didn’t last year,” Schefter said. “He struggled last year. And he seemed to regress, for whatever reason. But during the offseason workouts – for whatever it’s worth, it’s minicamp and OTAs – he has looked very strong and effective.
“They believe he’s back on track to becoming the type of player he was a couple of years ago when he looked like he was developing into one of the better young quarterbacks in the NFL.”
Schefter said Kaepernick could wind up “thriving” under new coaches.
“They believe he will,” Schefter said. “If he does, this team will probably be better than people are expecting right now.”