Kaepernick: the good and the not-so-good

Colin Kaepernick played a whopping 35 snaps last night in New Orleans. Unless the 49ers sign another quarterback soon, they will use the preseason to get Kaepernick as many “game-reps” as possible.

Here’s my impression of his first appearance in a 49ers uniform.


  • The 17-yard pass to Lance Long. This was the throw of the night for the Niners. Kaepernick lined up in the shotgun, caught the ball cleanly, dropped back, stepped up to avoid pressure from both sides and fired a rocket directly into the hands of Lance Long, 17 yards over the middle. These are the types of passes Kaepernick makes much more frequently in practice. For some reason, it was one of the few accurate passes he made in this game.
  • The 28-yard run at the end of the first half. In the shotgun again, Kaepernick got pressure from three Saints, immediately stepped up in the pocket and took off running. When he gets a lane he looks like a sprinter, with the long legs and the high knee-lift. This run looked almost identical to Andrew Luck’s famous run against Cal last year, until the end of course. Kaepernick bounced out of bounds, and Luck bounced off  defenders. But for a preseason game, Kaepernick played tough, always diving for a few extra yards on scrambles by the sideline.  He’s stronger and tougher than I expected, I’m sure we’ll see him run the ball more when the regular season starts.


  • The two interceptions. Unlike Alex Smith, who doesn’t do enough when he’s playing poorly, Kaepernick was trying to do too much. He kept trying to force the ball to rookie receiver Ronald Johnson, who just wasn’t open. When he threw the picks, he stared his receiver down. If he wants a shot to play quarterback in the 2011 regular season, he’s going to have to clean this up, because Alex Smith has for the most part.
  • Calling the plays on time. Harbaugh had to burn two timeouts in the second quarter because Kaepernick couldn’t get the players out the huddle fast enough, and this seemed to frustrate Jim Harbaugh the most. Harbaugh usually has a poker face, but with Kaepernick he shows his emotions. When he’s pleased with him, he puts his arm around his shoulder. He does this in practice, and he did this last night. When he’s frustrated, he yells through his teeth. It seems like he treats Kaepernick like a son. That being said, it’s risky to have a backup quarterback who can’t call the plays on time, even if the coach is fond of him. If Kaepernick doesn’t improve quickly here, Trent Baalke will have to sign a veteran to compete with Kaepernick for the second-string job.


Jim Harbaugh is having a conference call today at 3:00 p.m. with the media. I will get back to you with selected quotes after that.


Follow me on twitter @grantcohn.

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