Coach Chip Kelly on Monday said 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has improved weekly since his first start against Buffalo on Oct. 16.
In that contest, Kaepernick completed 44.8 percent of his passes, and his only touchdown throw was nearly knocked out of the air by a stiff southwesterly wind. His outing Sunday against Miami, though, was perhaps his best of the season.
Facing the league’s third-ranked defense, Kaepernick threw touchdown passes to three different targets and put the 49ers in position to at least tie the score in the waning moments. He was tackled 2 yards short of the end zone, and the 49ers lost 31-24, their 10th consecutive defeat.
Kelly often has noted that Kaepernick missed big chunks of the offseason and training camp and his only uninterrupted training in the coach’s system began with his preparation for the Bills game.
“He’s just got more experience,” Kelly said. “He’s made a progression from game to game … which is what you’re looking for. I think that part of it is positive. It’s not just one facet where it’s just this, and this is all he’s done. It’s in everything – his pocket presence, his accuracy, understanding and knowledge of protections. In all that stuff, I think he’s improved since the Buffalo game.”
Kaepernick’s running has been his most eye-popping feature. With 373 rushing yards, he trails only Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor – who has started 11 games compared to six for Kaepernick – by 66 yards among quarterbacks. Kaepernick ran for 113 yards against the Dolphins, his first 100-yard outing since he rushed for 151 yards against San Diego in 2014.
“If someone just makes the slightest error, he’s able to get into the open field,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said after the game. “It’s tough. He’s a tough guy to bring down. He makes good decisions as far as when he is running, when to get down, when he can keep going. Then he made some really good throws on the move.”
Kaepernick’s staggered start this season largely was due to surgeries on his shoulder, knee and thumb beginning a year ago. When the regular season started, Kelly often mentioned that Kaepernick hadn’t fully regained the weight and strength he had when the quarterback peaked in 2012 and ’13.
Last Tuesday, Kelly said Kaepernick still didn’t have the same bulk he had four years ago – “I think back then he was between 225, 230 pounds,” he said – but it didn’t matter.
“I’m good with his weight right now,” the coach said. “He’s not going to gain 35 pounds or whatever he needs to gain that quickly. We keep getting that question. I’m not concerned about his weight.”
For all his progress, Kaepernick still has yet to deliver a win for the 49ers. Kelly said his team’s two turnovers Sunday – Garrett Celek’s fumble and an interception of a Kaepernick pass that wide receiver Torrey Smith mishandled – undid many of their offensive accomplishments. The 49ers’ 475 yards were their second most this season, behind their 486 yards against New Orleans in Week 9.
“You just wish with 475 yards of offense you’d have more than 24 points,” Kelly said.
Notes – The 49ers arrived in Orlando on Sunday night and will practice at Central Florida from Tuesday through Thursday before heading for Chicago, where they will play the Bears on Sunday.
▪ San Francisco signed running back Raheem Mostert to its practice squad. To make room, the team cut rookie running back Kelvin Taylor, a sixth-round pick and the son of former Jacksonville running back Fred Taylor. Mostert played briefly under Kelly with Philadelphia last year.
▪ Kelly praised wide receiver Rod Streater, who had four receptions for 46 yards after filling in for Quinton Patton (concussion). “He does a good job after the catch, has been playing really well for us on special teams,” Kelly said. “We were happy with the way Streater played.”
▪ Kelly had no update on linebacker Shayne Skov, who left Sunday’s game because of a knee injury.