One reason the 49ers’ offense under quarterback Colin Kaepernick might not be quite as bad as the preseason suggests: the 49ers offense under Blaine Gabbert.
While Kaepernick has found pass rushers in his face on more than half of his dropbacks and has an ugly 47 passer rating through three games, Gabbert has looked far more comfortable, and his passer rating is an impressive 108.8.
That’s partly because the 49ers have been rolling Gabbert away from pressure. The designed rollouts, sometimes with a read-option element, allow him more time to throw, simplify his reads and take advantage of his athleticism.
The 49ers’ strategy this offseason has been to boost Gabbert’s confidence after a poor 2014 preseason during which he threw two interceptions, completed 46.8 percent of his passes and was booed by the home fans. And in that regard, the team has succeeded.
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The plan with Kaepernick was the opposite: Take him out of his comfort zone.
There’s a lot of good things that are happening and you guys don’t know for a reason. So we keep everything in house. We’re working to make sure we’re ready for that first game.
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, about his preseason
He’s capable of the same rollouts Gabbert has performed and the read-option likely will be a significant part of the offense just as it has been in previous seasons. But coach Jim Tomsula said he and his staff wanted to see Kaepernick and the offensive line in front of him in more drop-back situations.
“I want to know exactly what we have and I want to look at it,” Tomsula said on KNBR this week. “It might not look pretty on TV, and the things that we’re working out might not be what everybody wants to see, but we’re seeing what we need to see.”
Kaepernick also said he isn’t panicking about a preseason in which he has completed 5 of 13 passes.
“There’s a lot of good things that are happening, and you guys don’t know for a reason,” Kaepernick told reporters. “So we keep everything in-house. We’re working to make sure we’re ready for that first game.”
When the 49ers play the Minnesota Vikings in the Sept. 14 opener, Kaepernick will be able to audible out of plays he doesn’t like when he is surveying the defense. He didn’t have that option when the 49ers had the ball close to their own end zone Saturday against the Denver Broncos.
The right side of San Francisco’s offensive line allowed pressure, and Kaepernick was sacked for a safety. Tomsula said the 49ers didn’t game plan for that contest and Kaepernick couldn’t get out of that particular play call because it was the only one he had. The 49ers didn’t want to tip off upcoming opponents about their play of choice in a back-to-the-goal-line scenario.
5-13 Completions and attempts by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in preseason
“I’m not going to get too deep into answering that question, but I will tell you he will have latitude. He hasn’t up to now,” Tomsula said. “We haven’t game planned. ... If we start doing that in the preseason and everybody starts watching the tape, they see what happens on the safety.”
With one preseason game to go, the 49ers are last in the league in passing and are averaging a paltry 79.7 yards. The Seattle Seahawks, the 31st-ranked team in that category, have averaged 115.3 yards.
But the 49ers also are fifth in rushing yards with an average of 134.
“Even through the preseason, with the different combinations we’ve had out there, we’ve been able to run the ball very well,” Kaepernick said. “I think that will be a strength for us, and when they (the offensive line) were in the game on Saturday together they did a great job for us during that two-minute drill. So moving forward, I think everyone’s confident with what we have there.”
DeBartolo on ballot – Former 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr. has been added to the ballot for the next Pro Football Hall of Fame election. He was added as a contributor candidate, a new category by which Ron Wolf and Bill Polian were elected this year.
DeBartolo owned the 49ers for 23 years and the team won all five of its Super Bowl titles while he was running the franchise. DeBartolo was a finalist from 2012-14 but was eliminated each year in the final rounds of voting.