Cosell on the 49ers: “I think they learned they can’t quite take all the training wheels off of Kaepernick yet.”

Greg Cosell broke down the 49ers’ upcoming matchup with the Texans Tuesday morning o KNBR. Here is a transcript.

Q: How does the 49ers’ 27th-rated passing offense match up with the Texans’ top-rated pass defense?

COSELL: If the 49ers go to three-wide-receiver personnel with Vernon Davis at tight end, the Texans are a Dime team – six defensive backs. Very often in that Dime package they line up a rookie safety named D.J. Swearinger on the tight end. I think he’s going to be a really good player but he’s struggled a bit with tight ends in man coverage the first four weeks. That might be a matchup (the 49ers) feel they can exploit.

Q: Are there things the Texans do on defense that could present problems for the 49ers’ offense?

COSELL: They have a good defense. It’s quick. It’s fast. Watt is everything people say he is. He is a load to handle. He’s a great, great athlete. He does things that are a little unconventional and can get away with them because his athleticism for that size is absolutely remarkable. Their base defense is a 3-4 look with the two outside rushers, Mercilus being one of them, another athletic kid.

My guess is the 49ers will try to do what they think they do best, which is line up and run the ball out of base personnel and work off that. I think it’s important for them to stay with that approach. I think they learned that they can’t quite take all the training wheels off of Kaepernick yet. They’ve got to step back and let him develop at his own pace. He’s still started only 14 NFL games.

Q: Is Matt Schaub slumping right now or is too much being made over two bad throws?

COSELL: The last two weeks, the two touchdowns were terrible. He’s a veteran quarterback; you simply can’t do that. But you have to look deeper at what their offense is. They’re essentially a run-based offense with a pass game that works off of that. They’ve been very good with Schaub over the years with first down shot plays. They go with hard run action. It looks like run all the way. The offensive line blocks it as if it’s run, and they throw off of it and that’s how they get their big, explosive plays. Schaub is not necessarily a great quarterback when the defense forces him to throw.

Now, every quarterbacks’ efficiency technically will drop in those areas, but that’s not his game. They need to be proactive in the pass game and throw when they want to throw it. Ultimately, you’ve got to be able to defend their run game. That’s where it all starts when you face Houston.

Q: It looked like they were pretty proactive in the first half but then they got shut down in the second half. What did Seattle do differently?

COSELL: Seattle has a very good defense. I don’t think Seattle worries too much about an opposition beating them just by running the football. Foster had a couple of good runs. Seattle is a fast, quick defense and they’re good. They can stop them after a while. I think the critical thing for the 49ers is how they utilize Donte Whitner. He becomes a really, really important player in this game. He’s a really good player as an add-in defender in the run game. It will be interesting how the 49ers use him, if they try to disguise that. Or if they put him in the box and say, “We’re going to make you try to throw it.”

Q: How do you think the 49ers’ defense will do against the Texans’ rushing attack?

COSELL: Because the Texans often run the ball out of base personnel, the 49ers will be in their base 3-4 look  and that means Dorsey is in the game. I thought he dominated the Rams’ center, Wells, in the Thursday Night game. He probably didn’t get a whole lot of credit but I thought he controlled the middle very effectively.

This is a team that is a zone running team. The offensive linemen move in unison. It’s elephants on parade. You cannot play a zone run game laterally. You cannot run sideways to try to stop a zone run game. You’ve got to penetrate and you’ve got to attack downhill. They want you to run laterally because sooner or later when you run laterally, a hole gets created and that’s when Foster is really good at hitting that hole.

Their other back, Ben Tate, is not as good of a zone runner so their running game changes when Tate comes in the game. It’s more power-based. It will be interesting to see how the 49ers play but you’ve got to start by stopping the run.

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    1. Interesting stuff Jack. This game coming up is big one. The Texans are a type of team that gives the 9ers the fits, ala Colts, Vikings, Ravens. They run the ball with good backs and have at least a decent passing game. If the run gets stuffed the 9ers will win. If they lose expect Seattle to laughing hard because they beat the Texans on the road.

    2. I agree too Jack, and this is what a number of us were saying they had to do before the Rams game. It’s real easy to get away from the stuff you do best when the new toy is so shiny and exciting, but eventually you have to get back to what got you here, and hopefully they’ve realized that and continue on with it; at least until Kap is experienced enough to take on more.

    3. Good summary Jack, and it’s mostly what’s been stated on this blog for the last couple weeks. Kaep being skittish in the pocket, pulling the ball down while taking his eyes off receivers downfield, and runs out of the pistol not working.

      Now that this is out in the clear for everyone to see…let’s see what happens from here. I want the Texans game to start now!

    4. Nice stuff. I think it’s easy to forget that Harbaugh is also only in his 3rd season as a NFL coach. Its amazing how much he has achieved, but he will make errors in judgement, like all of us do.
      While it may only be Colin’s 14th start, some QBs are showing they’re ready from day one. Also, Aaron Rodgers sat for two years before he started playing, and once he did, everyone can see how good he is.
      While I’m glad Colin has some training wheels, the goal is to win no matter how you do it, it’s a disconcerting to see Colin’s development.
      Perhaps they are trying to do too much.
      He has all the raw ability, but until he plays at a high level on a consistent basis, it doesn’t mean anything.

  1. Top-17 graded defensive linemen on Pro Football Focus:

    1. Watt: +27.9
    2. Suh: +18.3
    3. Quinn: +16.2
    4. C. Jordan: +15.0
    5. McCoy: +14.0
    6. Casey: +13.9
    7. Johnson: +13.6
    8. Mebane: +11.1
    9. Hatcher: +11.0
    10. Harrison: +10.5
    11. Bennett: +9.4
    12. K. Williams: +9.0
    13. Ware: +8.9
    14. Redding: +8.9
    15. T. Jackson: +8.8
    16. S. Richardson: +8.3
    17. Dorsey: +7.9

    Ray McDonald: +3.2
    Justin Smith: +2.1

  2. I agree with Mr. Cosell. Shutdown their running game. Force third and long and look for the INT. Offensively he’s right again about coming out and establishing Gore with the power running game. The game has yet to slow down for the young phenom, but I expect it to happen at some point in the near future. Look for Baldwin to score in this game…

  3. Top-17 passer ratings off play action:

    1. P. Manning: 158.3
    1a. Rivers: 158.3
    3. Wilson: 135.5
    4. Romo: 129.0
    5. Newton: 127.3
    6. Kaepernick: 115.0
    7. Hoyer: 111.9
    8. Vick: 111.8
    9. Ryan: 109.5
    10. Tannehill: 107.3
    11. A. Smith: 105.9
    12. Brady: 105.0
    13. Rodgers: 102.3
    14. Luck: 102.0
    15. Roethlisberger: 97.3
    16. Flacco: 97.2
    17. Schaub: 93.8

    Top-10 worst passer ratings without play action:

    1. Freeman: 62.5
    2. Weeden: 64.2
    3. Flacco: 65.3
    4. Kaepernick: 68.8
    5. Palmer: 69.2
    6. E. Manning: 70.2
    7. Wilson : 73.2
    8. Hoyer: 73.6
    9. G. Smith: 76.9
    10. Ponder: 77.9

    1. So what are your perdictions on the game. I believe Kap and Gore will each rush a TD and 1 to VD Dawson 2 FG. Texans Owen and Foster will each score one. 27 49ers- 17 Texans.

      1. The play action stats are better for Kaepernick because the reads are generally quicker and more easily defined.

  4. Seems like good insight. I defer to jack though as his insight has been better with less agenda attached to it.
    I think SF beats any team in the NFL out of their base running game. I don’t think it’s a matter of taking the training wheels off of Kaepernick as much as it is getting receivers cleanly off the line. Run some bunch sets like we did against GB and get free releases for Boldin. Line Davis up as a WR and let Frank Gore run right at Watt.

  5. Top-10 receiving grades on PFF

    1. A. Brown: +9.1
    2. A. Johnson: +6.7
    3. Nelson: +6.2
    4. D. Jackson: +5.7
    5. N. Washington: +5.7
    6. Edelman: +5.6
    7. C. Johnson: +5.5
    8. Fitzgerald: +5.2
    9. Marshall: +5.2
    10. Hopkins: +5.2

  6. got back to nyc in time to watch ESPN go gaga over Peyton Manning, with copious clips anointing him “Greatest Ever” (until the next target of the hype-machine is found); I laughed out loud at how many open receivers he had, usually at least two wide open on each of the highlights.

    Here’s what we know: if Boldin gets open, Kaep finds him. If Crabs even has/had an angle on someone, Kaep finds him and throws pinpoint passes at 70 mph. Mostly, we just need a receiver to create a semblance of an opening. The disappointing thing about Kaep this year has been his “happy feet”, but i recall another very talented SF QB who had happy feet who managed to grow into the job when he realized his job was to find a streaking #80 heading downfield. I wouldnt trade Kaep for anyone in the NFL right now. I still think we win 2 SBs with him, with the usual caveats (he doesnt break his back or neck and we don’t trade Aldon Smith to the Rams for their waterboy).

    Cosell makes some good points above…but Kaep is going to be just find, training wheels or not.

      1. lol…his happy feet are purposeful tho…Steve ran out of the pocket (in his first couple of years) if he saw his shadow. Kaep is taking his eyes off downfield receivers early, and wandering around without effect. but he’s taking his eyes off them because he only trusts one of them (Boldin), and sometimes the other team takes Boldin out of the game with coverage.

      2. I’m sorry maybe i’m using the wrong definition for the term happy feet. To me it means a QB who gets nervous in the pocket well before it breaks down and begins dancing all over even when theres no pressure. By that definition there has never been a good NFL QB with happy feet. Jim Plunkett developed happy feet in NE but he lost them in Oak.

      3. Happy feet king? Manning’s pocket movement is top notch. He slides and shuffles to openings within the pocket while progressing through his options, then releases the ball with unparalleled accuracy before the hit comes

      4. Grant,
        They get happier during the playoffs. I’ve always found it fascinating that a player could be so dominant during the regular season and so average (at best) during the postseason. Manning is a great player, but he should have more Super Bowl rings on his hand in order for his stature to be justified.
        The year the Colts won the Super Bowl, he had a 3-7 TD to INT ratio and a 70.1 rating during the playoffs. That’s less than a TD per game, and almost two INT’s per game during that SB run. In two Super Bowls, he has two TD’s and two INT’s. He also threw the game sealing pick six to Tracy Porter to lose the Super Bowl. He is a great player, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like the national media wants this guy to be the greatest of all time when his play during the postseason simply doesn’t justify it.
        Do you have any insights on the national media’s man crush of Manning? Do they pump him up in order to have ties to him when his playing days are over? Montana, widely considered the greatest QB of all time, is sort of a recluse that couldn’t care less about the media or being an ambassador for the NFL. Manning is the opposite. How much does that factor into the Manning hype train?

      5. The best attribute Manning has is his ability to get the offense into the best play to take advantage of what he sees from the defense. He really is literally a Coach on the field and while the physical skills have eroded a little, his mind and knowledge of the game are as sharp as ever and that is why he is playing at such a high level. The only way to slow him down is to get pressure on him and take away his hot read which is easier said than done but not impossible.

      6. Rocket,
        He has been phenomenal and is a first ballot HOF’er. One of the greatest of all time. I just feel like the big media companies are trying to annoint him as the greatest of all time when his postseason accomplishments pale in comparison to the regular season. He didn’t play well during their Super Bowl victory run and lost the SB against the Saints with his pick six to Porter.
        Brady would be considered the greatest QB of all time, right now, if they had beaten the Giants and finished off their perfect season. It would have been his fourth SB victory, a perfect season, and it would have taken place during the salary cap era. They just missed, but it changed the Brady-Montana argument forever. Montana was 4-0 and never even threw a pick. He lead his team to a come from behind victory and engineered the games biggest (I think) blowout the following year. Manning is nowhere near either of those guys.

      7. Big P- I’ve never subscribed to the notion that what you do in the post season, ‘defines’ how great of a QB you are. There are so MANY variables if you want to slice it up correctly. Players and coaches generally do NOT look at it that way, fans do.
        By saying Brady was 1 win away from being the GOAT, you are essentially saying that he was an incredible David Tyree catch away from being the best ever. 2 more inches and he’s the best, but another player made a great play against another player other than Brady, so he’s not the best because of that?
        I will never understand that POV.

      8. Big P,

        No question the Mother ship gets carried away with dubbing players the best ever. They’ve done it with LeBron too and Jordan finally had enough of it last week and spoke up.

        Montana is the greatest ever to me, but it’s so hard to rate these guys because each had their own plus’ and minus’ in the form of players around them, Coaching etc.

        The most impressive thing about Manning is his analytical way of playing the position. He studies and plays like a Coach and that is very rare to see in any sport. His commitment to knowing everything possible about beating a defense is impressive. I do agree that he has come up short in the playoffs far too many times to be labeled as the best ever.

    1. Excellent post fesnyc. Kaep will be fine. He has a rare skill set; the ability to find receivers barely open and pinpoint lasers into tight windows. His accuracy on such throws downfield has also been amazing. I would love for him to take charge a little bit and demand more from the WR corps the same way Manning did early on. When Manning used to zip the ball into tight windows and the receivers failed to come up with it, he would let them know. Eventually every one of his receivers were making outstanding catches knowing they didn’t want to be on his bad side. Sometimes you have to elevate the level of play in those around you. Some of that comes with experience.

      On another note, most of Kaep’s problems have occurred when trying too much to make a play (generally after the team goes down 2 scores and it gets later in the game). His accuracy in tight games as been generally good, with mistakes coming at or below frequency for other top notch QBs of his experience.

      I don’t worry at all about this 49ers team and I agree they win a Super Bowl or two with Kaep. I just don’t know if this is the year we do it. I understand we will lose some starters in free agency, but trust me some other players will gain some experience having played in big games and with the addition of some key draft picks and a few free agents, we will get this done.

      The whole Super Bowl or bust expectations we have as fans are great because it pushes the team to expect more of themselves. But realistically, it’s tough to win it every year. Their best shot was last year, but in no way has the door been shut on this team. We still have stacked roster at key positions. A few tweaks in the secondary, a Wide Reciver and perhaps a veteran standout addition to play part-time on the D-line would be helpful. Either way, only one other team in this league has a roster similar to ours, so we have as good a chance as any winning in this league.

      1. I will also add that the problem this defense has is not so much that we can’t stop the run, it’s that we can’t stop certain runners. Ahmad Bradshaw and Marshawn Lynch have always given us problems. I think their shifty style (they jerk left, then right, then left as they inch towards the line, then find a small opening and take the 4-5 yards) is something our defense has a hard time adjusting to.

        I harp back on 1992-1994 when the 49ers had a really tough time stopping Emmitt Smith (not so much other RBs) and it costed us conference championship games. Finally in 1994, we revamped the D-line with a bunch of veteran has-beens and the outcome was completely different. Not only did we stop Emmitt in January of 1995, we put quite a licking on him on the first run of the game.

        We need to add someone (like Seattle did with Bennett) that still has a bit left in the tank and can play at a high level in spot duty.

        The key to finishing games is to have your defense play at the same level for all 60 minutes. Without interchangeable d-lineman, this is a tough thing to accomplish, and we are just now realizing it.

      2. Alex stalker, i dont agree or disagree with what you say about the running game or the ’94 season, but i have a slightly different point of view. You might be on to something about style of rb’s we have trouble with. ( big strong, one cut guys). I see the running game as a game of “chicken”, like the one played by teenagers driving towards one another! waiting to see you will turn away first! in our 2 losses, we gave up on the run first! We gave up, became one dimensional and got whooped! The other team ran early and often. And spanked us! Teams usually dont just open the game gouging us with the run. They seem to wear us down, and as the game goes on, the runs get longer. I think this goes back to TOP! Time of possession! As Grant loves to point out how old they are, i think this is how it negatively affects them the most. The last 2 years, we were a run the ball, control the clock, keep the D fresh kind of team. Now that we have a QB who can light it up, we must be careful not to lose our identity.
        As for the “94 team….we had 10 new players of the top 25 ( i consider 3rd and 4th WR’s as the “top 25″ due to the importance of the passing game) i researched this in an argument with jack hammer. we had 7or 8 new starters on D in ’94. The ’92 and ’93 defenses were terrible!

  7. Last weeks game looked like the offense we ran when we had Smith. I think we need to stick to that and we will win many games. We need to go back to our old formula for the last 2 yrs. Run power and wham plays and set up the play-action. I don’t mind them sprinkling the pistol here and there, but we need to go back to our old formula. Alex did it successfully for 2 yrs without an elite receiving core. However the way Alex played in that system and Kaep plays in that system are completely different. Alex was very quick to check down and always looked for the easiest pass. Kap goes for the tougher throws and will take off if it isn’t there. I think each style will work.

    As long as our defense plays as well as they have we will be okay. I like the Lemonier and Brooks combo. I hope Brooks plays as well as he did against the Rams.

  8. Seattle sure has a 49-Raider vibe. Cable as coach,McCloughan is some kind of exec, the Tight end is a former Raider…..and Sneaky Pete signs everybody Harbaugh lets go.

  9. Fact-check:
    These 5 teams won Super Bowl after 2-2 start.
    1. 1980 Raiders
    2. 1981 49ers
    3. 1993 Cowgirls
    4. 2003 Patriots
    5. 2007 Giants

    Only team to win Super Bowl after 1-3 start:
    2001 Patriots

  10. “training wheels”…. Oh, my.!
    Colin, you want so badly to be taken seriously.
    ” I’m an NFL quarterback. A starting QB for that matter. ”
    However, …….. you threw away a Super Bowl.
    So, yes, training wheels are in order.

    1. After eight years in the league, Alex Smith still has his training wheels on. Reid encouraged Smith to take them off last week and he had three turnovers. Heck, even Smith’s contract has training wheels on it to prevent it from falling over towards the teams side. Put the lotion in the basket DS…..

      1. But the Chiefs are 4-0 and playing well. Meanwhile our offense is once again tryin to find out who we are. Training wheels, game manager, check downs, whatever it takes to win, it really does not matter.

        Oh sorry Big P I should not be commenting, I earn too much money and why is Grant writing articles when he never played football? The world according Big P!

      2. Looks like the man from Danville has a hard time letting go of past issues and specifically past bloggers. Is DSX49erv really in your kitchen that much P, bitter or what little guy

      3. FDM,
        What’s up little guy? Salting your driveway yet? It’s beautiful here in Northern California. Not bitter about anything. Just messing with the person that spews anti 49er and CK nonsense on a 49er blog. Everybody knows who it is. You can now go back to slapping the yellow off of people’s teeth over the Internet.

      4. LOL
        A troll using “Alex Smith” as his ID draws out the Alex bashers, what a surprise?
        The troll could be one of the WWC clubber. It’s the Internet. A classic case of the troll wagon.

  11. Grant, your recent column on the rationale for the Skelton acquisition has relevance here, because if, pace Cosell, the training wheels ARE coming off Kap and the 49ers are not only going to have him run but have him run more closely inside, then the risk of injury goes up and with it the need for a solid, low-mobility and therefore lower injury-risk back-up quarterback. In other words, knowing they have Skelton, enables the coaching staff to be more daring with Kap and McCoy. In your column, you addressed this alternative take with your brief comparison of Shanahan and Harbaugh, and I certainly hope that your view is the correct one.

  12. note to Crab15:
    this conversation to be continued at the end of the first quarter Sunday against the Texans. If the score happens to be
    Houston 3 or 7 or 10 …. and San Francisco zero….
    perhaps you will be interested in revising your opinion.

    Place your bets early, willya…
    My money says the Niners will trail for most of the game.

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