San Francisco 49ers

49ers quarterly report card: Offense, Kaepernick reeling

Colin Kaepernick was sacked 14 times over the first four games and the 49ers are on pace to set a franschise record for sacks allowed.
Colin Kaepernick was sacked 14 times over the first four games and the 49ers are on pace to set a franschise record for sacks allowed. The Bee

Dear shareholders,

The 49ers’ quarterly report is in and, well, we hope you diversified your rooting portfolio.

Here’s how the offense performed the first four weeks:

Quarterback

Colin Kaepernick went through a rough stretch last year when the 49ers fell at home to the Seattle Seahawks (the 49ers scored one field goal; sound familiar?) and the following week against the Raiders. The quarterback’s issue against the Raiders was an excess of bravado, and when he toned it down in ensuing weeks, he pulled out of his dive. Kaepernick’s current problem lies on the opposite end of the spectrum – his confidence crashed against the Arizona Cardinals. All four interceptions against the Cardinals came on throws outside the numbers. Against the Green Bay Packers, those throws sailed five yards out of bounds. Throws in traffic skipped to their target. Kaepernick rightly blamed himself for the Arizona loss. But he needed to shake off that game like a starting pitcher gets over a shelling. Instead, he allowed it to affect his next outing. The 49ers can’t/won’t replace him right now because they’re only one quarter into the season and doing so would undermine every decision maker, from the offensive coaches to front office, in the organization. It also must be noted that Kaepernick played well the first two weeks. Still, the 49ers can’t tolerate another lousy performance and Blaine Gabbert, coming off a solid preseason, is waiting in the wings. Grade: D+

Running back

There is nothing wrong with the lead rusher. Despite poor quarterback play and shoddy blocking, Carlos Hyde is averaging 4.5 yards a carry. According to Pro Football Focus, a 49ers runner has been hit in the backfield on 28.6 percent of the team’s carries, fourth-highest in the league. The 49ers have not received much production from their backups, largely because Reggie Bush was injured for nearly three of the first four games. Hyde’s biggest issue promises to be something Frank Gore dealt with for the better part of a decade: Defenses don’t fear the 49ers’ passing game and will be focused on stopping the run. For the second consecutive season, fullback Bruce Miller has been lightly used, even though his skills mesh nicely with the zone-blocking concepts the team is using in 2015. Grade: B+

56 Projected sacks allowed by the 49ers this season

Wide receiver

After leading the 49ers in receiving the past two seasons with more than 1,000 yards, Anquan Boldin is on pace to finish with fewer than 500 yards. Torrey Smith has made a couple of big catches, but both have come in the second half of games the 49ers had little or no chance of winning. Still, the issue hasn’t been the pass catchers but rather the passes. Smith has no drops through four games (though Boldin has two). Even Quinton Patton delivered two big plays Sunday against the Packers. The 49ers should try to get Bruce Ellington more involved once he is fully past his ankle injury. Grade: B

Tight ends

The 49ers’ decision makers decided the strength of their offense was their tight ends. They may have been confusing depth with talent. The team had eight tight ends in training camp. But of those eight, are any remarkable? Vernon Davis may be better than he was a year ago, but he hasn’t been the playmaker he was in 2013 or earlier. He hasn’t had a touchdown since Sept. 7, 2014. Vance McDonald continues to be best known for inopportune drops. The team’s most consistent tight end has been Garrett Celek, who for his first four years was used as an extra blocker. Teams that are good in the red zone tend to have great quarterbacks and dominant tight ends. The 49ers have neither, which is why they are ranked 29th in red-zone touchdowns. Grade: C

Offensive line

The best thing that can be said about the offensive line is plenty of other teams are struggling to protect their quarterback and open holes for their running back. The NFL seems to be in the throes of a lineman shortage. The 49ers are on pace to allow 56 sacks, which would set a franchise record. Everyone has been at fault, including left tackle Joe Staley, who has allowed three sacks after giving up only four last season. The right side of the line has borne the bulk of the criticism. If there’s any good news in that area it’s that right tackle Erik Pears has improved over the last two games. The bigger issue is right guard and center, where opponents are having roaring success blitzing Kaepernick. The problem is the 49ers have nowhere else to turn. None of the reserves has played a single snap in the regular season and many played worse than the current group did during the preseason. General manager Trent Baalke seems to have overestimated two third-round draft picks in 2014, Marcus Martin and Brandon Thomas. Thomas was supposed to take over for free-agent departee Mike Iupati this season. Daniel Kilgore can return in Week 7, but don’t be surprised if it’s later. The follow-up surgery on his ankle this spring was more serious than the team initially let on. Grade: D

4.5 Carlos Hyde’s yardage per carry

Kicker

One of the story lines around the league is that the new, longer point-after attempt has rattled some kickers. But not Phil Dawson, albeit he has had only four attempts. The veteran is 4 for 5 on field goals with his lone miss on a blocked attempt in Week 1 that was not Dawson’s fault. Grade: B+

Returns

Jarryd Hayne has been a white-knuckle ride. He’s been over-aggressive on two punt returns, losing one and nearly turning the ball over Sunday. But he also set up the 49ers’ only score in Arizona. At minimum, he’s been wildly entertaining, which you can’t say about many 49ers this season. San Francisco is averaging 21.6 yards per kick return, which ranks 24th in the league. The problem is many of those returns begin eight yards deep in the end zone. Grade: C+

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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