After winning their first game of the season, the San Francisco 49ers have lost four straight games, looking very much like a team under a new head coach with an overhauled roster.
While there is a litany of issues, the offense remains a problem, particularly as Colin Kaepernick continues to struggle.
Through five weeks, the 49ers rank 29th in Football Outsider’s DVOA (a metric that measures the efficiency of a team’s offense by comparing their results on every play to what other teams do in similar situations), while Kaepernick ranks 32nd in DVOA among quarterbacks. Kaepernick has thrown more interceptions (five) than touchdowns (four), including a horrendous four-interception outing in Week 3. And though his completion rate is a career-best 63%, his yards per completion are a career-low 10.4.
The answer for his woes, once again, seems to be his mechanics. Fox Sports’ Ross Jones spoke to Chris Ault, who coached Kaepernick at University of Nevada. Ault said a major issue is Kaepernick’s technique not coinciding with his arm strength:
“He was a pitcher, as everyone knows. He threw that thing 93 or 94 miles per hour. He has a low elbow at times. It’s not a sidearm throw by any means, but his elbow and arm are at 90 degrees instead of having that thing extended all the way up. He does that because he’s so doggone strong. He’s one of the few guys that can get away throwing that way, but when you have to make the touch pass, drop it over (coverage), or if you have to anticipate where a receiver is going, that type of release often times makes you very inconsistent.”
However, Ault also believes that the heavy roster turnover hasn’t helped Kaepernick. After the mass exodus from San Francisco, Ault says some of Kaepernick’s bad form comes from adjusting to a leaky offensive line.
“They went from a veteran line to a line of guys that are just trying to come together as a unit. … I’m sure we could look at film and say that he left the pocket too soon, but I think you have to put the shoe on the other foot. The front is not cohesive at this particular time. I know they’re working on it, there’s no question about it, but he can’t block for himself. He’s the type of player – rather than say, ‘I’ll take a sack,’ he’s the guy that will try to make something happen.”
Ault added that he thinks some of this has led to bad footwork from Kaepernick.
It’s been a wildly inconsistent season from Kaepernick. Early on, it looked like he had improved as a pocket-passer, fixing his biggest weakness. However, strong showings in the first two weeks were followed by horrendous performances in Weeks 3 and 4. When there were questions about how long Kaepernick would remain the starter, he responded with a solid 262-yard, two-touchdown outing in a narrow loss to the Giants.
While Kaepernick’s inconsistency is maddening, it’s also encouraging – his strong performances show he has another level he’s capable of reaching. However, five years into his career, and his third season as the full-time starter, the NFL world is still trying to solve Kaepernick’s problems.