Opinions vary on whether Colin Kaepernick is becoming a better pocket passer in 2015, but the quarterback said Wednesday he is more at ease running the 49ers’ offense than in previous years.
“I would say the biggest thing is I’m being asked to be myself this year, and I don’t think anyone knows how to be myself better than me,” Kaepernick said. “So it’s a comfort zone for me. It’s a situation where I’m not being asked to do things outside of my character.”
Kaepernick walked off the podium before answering what, exactly, he was asked to do in recent seasons that was out of character. But the statistics, albeit after just two games, seem to show progress.
98.1Colin Kaepernick’s passer rating, 12th best in the NFL
Kaepernick has completed 69.4 percent of his passes, has two touchdown passes against no interceptions and has a 98.1 passer rating that ranks 12th in the NFL. His passer rating at the end of the 2012 season – when he took over as starting quarterback and the 49ers went to the Super Bowl – was 98.3.
“It’s obvious when he’s in the pocket – going across his progressions, his footwork – that he’s put lot of work into it,” Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said on a conference call. “That’s obvious to me as quarterback coach. I applaud him for that. They’re doing what he likes to do. But he has progressed as a pocket passer.”
One difference, which Arians may have alluded to, is that the 49ers also are running plenty of read-option plays and rolling Kaepernick out of the pocket, both of which he did at Nevada.
Another change: The 49ers are breaking the huddle earlier, which allows Kaepernick the opportunity to survey the defense and change calls at the line of scrimmage. Under Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers often would snap the ball just as the play clock reached zero.
“We have a lot more time to actually show what he can do as far as time, scheme, what he can get us into, the right play,” left guard Alex Boone said. “When you have a lot of time, you can do things like that. When you don’t, you kind of rush and you make bad decisions and they keep piling up. It’s like a snowball effect. Breaking the huddle early, giving us a lot of time, really shows that he knows what coverage it is and where he wants the line to go. Those are all good things to see.”
Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson, however, seemed to disagree with his coach. Jefferson told Pro Football Talk radio this week that Kaepernick is predictable, especially on third down.
“We’ve been seeing him tuck the ball away and running,” Jefferson said. “Every time, it looks like, on third down he’s looking at one option and when that one option’s not open, he’s looking to run. So we got to contain him and try to keep him throwing the ball outside the numbers because we don’t think that’s his strength.”
It’s not the same. There’s really not things to compare it to.
Jim Tomsula, 49ers coach, when asked to define Colin Kaepernick’s progress from last season
The statistics show Kaepernick does like to take off on third downs, but only slightly more than on other downs. According to the scouting service Pro Football Focus, of Kaepernick’s 24 dropbacks on third down this season, he’s scrambled three times, or 12.5 percent. That’s compared to 11.5 percent on first down and 3.1 percent on second down.
Jim Tomsula said Kaepernick’s progress is difficult to define since he’s being asked to do things differently than in previous years.
“It’s not the same,” San Francisco’s coach said. “There’s really not things to compare it to.”
Harbaugh lavished praise on his quarterbacks, once saying that Kaepernick was “great with a capital ‘G’ – at the highest level of great.”
So some things haven’t changed for the 49ers passer.
“Look, guys, everybody here knows how I feel about him,” Tomsula said. “I’m tickled to death and happier than heck that Colin Kaepernick’s our starting quarterback. I think he’s an extremely talented individual, and I’m a big fan.”