Blaine Gabbert was picked 10th in the NFL draft four years ago partly because of his powerful right arm. But the 49ers quarterback has taken some heat off this season, which might explain his rise in accuracy.
Gabbert has completed 65.3 percent of his passes in his three starts, a percentage that, should he maintain it over the next five games, likely will rank in the top 10 in the league. His completion rate after three seasons in Jacksonville was 53.3 percent.
“You’re more accurate with the football staying smooth, having a smooth delivery,” he said this week. “Because when you overthrow a football, you’re not really gaining that much more velocity. But you tend to be more erratic with it.”
There are plenty of reasons for the rise in accuracy, not the least of which is that Gabbert is making better decisions as a 26-year-old veteran than he did early in his career. He also has embraced check-down throws and has a very good receiver out of the backfield, Shaun Draughn, who has caught 17 of the 21 passes thrown his way.
Gabbert was not an accurate passer with the Jaguars and he looked even worse during his first preseason with the 49ers in 2014 when he completed just 46.8 percent.
But during the recent offseason, quarterbacks coach Steve Logan asked him to experiment with throwing at perhaps 85 percent of his maximum velocity, which led to better accuracy and increased confidence.
Offensive coordinator Geep Chryst said he remembers Andrew Luck being criticized for his arm strength early at Stanford. It wasn’t that Luck was incapable of high velocity, Chryst said; it was that he knew he didn’t have to throw hard all the time.
“I thought he was one of the best at throwing the ball that was appropriate,” Chryst said. “So if it was a check-down, it was a nice catchable ball. ... It shows the variety of throws you can have. Blaine’s done a phenomenal job, and I think he’ll continue to improve with that rhythm that he has. I look forward to seeing him week after week after week.”
Hyde’s roster spot – Running back Carlos Hyde didn’t practice Thursday and seems likely to miss his fifth straight game with a stress fracture in his left foot. With five games remaining, the 49ers must decide whether his roster spot would be better used by one of several candidates.
Center Daniel Kilgore said he’s ready to come off the physically unable to perform list and he wants to play this season after more than a year rehabilitating his broken ankle.
The deadline to move Kilgore to the 53-man roster is Monday. That’s also the deadline for activating rookie wide receiver DeAndre Smelter, who is more than a year removed from his ACL tear at Georgia Tech and is on the non-football injury list.
Coach Jim Tomsula said Thursday the plan is to give Kilgore more practice repetitions this week “and see where he’s at at the end of the week.”
The 49ers also could move one of two tight ends from the practice squad after their top tight end, Garrett Celek, suffered a high ankle sprain and could be moved to injured reserve.
And a number of fans – most from Australia – are wondering why Jarryd Hayne is on the practice squad when the 49ers have obvious needs at running back.