San Francisco 49ers

Chemistry lesson: Kaepernick, Stevie Johnson admit their connection isn’t “clicking” yet

SANTA CLARA -- When Anquan Boldin arrived last offseason, his connection with Colin Kaepernick was immediate. As early as May OTAs, the two looked like they had been playing together since childhood, and in Week 1 they hooked up 13 times for 208 yards.

Kaepernick's connection with another veteran acquired via trade, Stevie Johnson, hasn't been nearly as swift. But that's neither surprising nor alarming to either man. While Boldin has a straightforward style, Johnson's takes some getting used to.

Kaepernick, in fact, called Johnson's movements “unorthodox,” and that's not the first time Johnson has heard his route running described that way.

“I've pretty much taken it upon myself to be unorthodox to make up for some things that other receivers have – you know, speed and quickness,” he said this week. “I set up my routes a little different. It's a gift and a curse. Because it can take some time to build chemistry with quarterbacks. But at the same time, the gift is that you know you can get open.”

Kaepernick agreed.

“There are times that he's going to make a move on a db, and you have to be ready because he's also making a move that you have to see,” Kaepernick said. “So I think that's something where it took a little bit longer just to get used to his body language because he had some unorthodox things that he does. But ultimately his separation is there, he's getting open.”

When the 49ers went with three wide receivers Sunday, Quinton Patton, not Johnson, was the third receiver and Johnson didn't play with Kaepernick. Jim Harbaugh, meanwhile, has said that coaches haven't decided on a No. 3 receiver behind Boldin and Michael Crabtree. That has led to some speculation that Johnson, scheduled to earn $3.65 million in base salary, may be a surprise cut.

Asked about Johnson last week, Harbaugh said he “feels good” about the receiver's spot on the 53-man roster.

Kaepernick apparently does, too. He called Boldin, Crabtree, Johnson and Lloyd “our four receivers” and said that he's been making steady progress with Johnson. That hasn't been apparent in 49ers' intrasquad practices, Kaepernick said, because the 49ers defense doesn't give him very many opportunities to target Johnson.

During joint practices with the Ravens in Maryland, however, Kaepernick and Johnson looked a lot like Kaepernick and Boldin during the 2013 offseason. And that may be the key point for the 49ers receiving corps this season – some receivers are better matchups against certain defenses.

“I feel like our four receivers are very different in styles,” he said. “They have a lot of similar attributes, but their styles are different. And the one thing with Stevie, there aren't too many people that can stay with him when he's cutting, getting in and out of breaks. And we want to take advantage of that.”

Said Johnson of the quarterback-receiver chemistry: “I would say we're getting close. I can't say we're completely on. It's only been a couple months. It's getting there. I can't say we're clicking right now but we're getting there.”