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NFC West Q&A: Was 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick exposed last season?

6/24/2015
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Developing Colin Kaepernick

ESPN NFL Insider Dan Graziano breaks down the 49ers coaching staff's need to focus more on developing Colin Kaepernick.

Today's question: Much has been made of Colin Kaepernick changing his mechanics this offseason. Is he still seen as a dual threat who can win games by himself, or was he exposed last year and, with some of the sheen off him, has he been essentially figured out -- especially with the departure of Jim Harbaugh?

Josh Weinfuss, Arizona Cardinals: Last season was eye-opening for defenses that couldn’t figure out Kaepernick previously. But he’s still considered a dual-threat quarterback who can win games by himself. Defenses identified ways to keep him contained and frustrate him, and it cost the Niners, who allowed a league-high 52 sacks of Kaepernick. But he still completed 60.5 percent of his passes for a respectable 3,369 yards and 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Even though he rushed for only one touchdown, he had the second-most rushing yards among quarterbacks (639) on 104 carries. He can still get yards and first downs (tied for third among quarterbacks with 28 last season). The loss of Harbaugh will definitely impact the creativity in San Francisco’s offense, but he’s still a dual threat.

Nick Wagoner, St. Louis Rams: Kaepernick has generally been pretty good against the Rams, at least when the Niners have protected him. Last year, Kaepernick’s woes against the Rams were more a product of a lack of protection than anything else. In seven career games against the Rams, he’s managed a passer rating of 102.7 and a QBR of 58.8. But last year’s games offered a prime example of how good he can be against St. Louis when protected and how he struggles when he’s not. In the Niners’ 31-17 win in St. Louis in Week 6, Kaepernick was not sacked and threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns without being sacked for a QBR of 93.5. Three weeks later, in the Niners’ 13-10 loss to the Rams, Kaepernick threw for 237 yards and a touchdown but was sacked eight times for a QBR of 13.4.

Terry Blount, Seattle Seahawks: Kaepernick’s problem isn't his physical mechanics; it’s his mental mechanics. Here’s the stat that tells you all you need to know: Kaepernick was last in the NFC last season in fourth-quarter passer rating at 60.3, but his overall passer rating was 86.4. In other words, Kaepernick tends to make bad decisions with the game on the line. Four of his 10 interceptions last season came in the fourth quarter. His yards per play went from 7.4 in the first three quarters to 5.85 in the final quarter. His mechanics didn’t change in the fourth quarter, but his thinking process did.