and the fans are frustrated.
Lets break down some of the reasons for the recent disappointments in their offensive game.
Lack of Effective Receivers
Throughout the off season, every true 49er fan knew what our active receiving core looked like. It didn’t look great, but then again it didn’t look horrible. We knew speedster Kyle Williams and playmaker Mario Manningham were not going to be with us for training camp. We knew they would possibly miss some of the season (Manningham is still out). We knew we picked up a pretty decent rookie from La Tech, QP, that could potentially by a good contributor down the road. We knew the Baltimore Ravens gave up a great asset in Boldin for a not-so-great draft pick. What we did not know was that our star, Michael Crabtree, would be lost for most the season. Besides Davis, though he is a TE, we lost our three most productive receivers. That is hard for any team to overcome. Williams is back now but hasn’t made as big of an impact as our team needs right now. Boldin is a beast, but when no one else is getting open, the defenses can easily key in on him. Patton will be a good receiver, but he is still a rookie and has some things to learn. Harper, Osgood, Carswell, and Moore may all be NFL receivers, but none of these options are suitable for a starting position. Jon Baldwin was a gamble we made when we traded A.J. Jenkins to the chiefs to reunite with Smith. He has the potential, but then again he has always had the potential. Can Baldwin put his potential and talent to good use and become a productive NFL receiver? I hope so, but who truly knows.
The Niners receivers have failed to make this season easy for Kaep, with an exception to the Packer outing. The crisp route running is not there. The separation is not there. There physical play at the line of scrimmage is not there. Even the confusion of the defense is not as present as it was last year. This brings me to one of our other deficiencies.
Lack of Read-Option Production
Last year, the read-option started to truly emerge in certain teams game plan. It was a rarely used scheme in the NFL. As the year proceeded, the use of the read-option grew and began to show its effectiveness. Defenses did not necessarily know how to game plan against it. It was used sparingly but effectively. As apparent in the 49ers last two games, defensive coordinators studied it rigorously during the offseason. Defenses have began to use a soft-read when faced with a read-option. Last year, we saw defenses attempt to take away a certain option. Whether it be a handoff, a quarterback keeper, or a pass out of the option, defenses attempted to read the play as it developed and attack(quick or hard read). This got defenses into trouble at times. A great example of this is the Packers-49ers game in last years post-season. Kaep ran all over the Packers defense because they were committing too much to the hand off.
This year, instead of making a decision and reacting quickly, defenses are using a soft-read. The designated linebacker plays almost a spy. He remains in his position and waits for the play to show itself. He does not commit to a certain option, which means when the true option actually appears, the linebacker can fully commit to the ball. Rather than the linebacker tipping the QB off, they reverse rolls. The linebacker will not make a play until he knows what true action is taking place. The Seattle Seahawks did a great job at this in their win two weeks ago. The Colts worked this a bit as well.
Now, let me clear this up right now. Kaep is a stud. Kaep is a worker. Kaep wants to win. Now that I got that out of the way, let’s get into it. Kaepernick made the Packer defense look like fools in the first game of the year. He did that by only using his arm, not his legs. So we know he can throw the ball. The previous two games, we have seen some things from Kaep that we don’t want to see. He seems timid and indecisive. Now that is not all on Kaep. If the receivers were getting open, he would have an easier time getting them the ball. They may be open for a split second, and Kaep needs to use that 98 mph laser-arm to fire the ball to the open spot. These openings are not there for very long, so Kaep has to trust his arm and make those throws. That being said, no QB wants to give the ball to the other team and after a game where you throw three picks, it may be hard to have that confidence to fire it into those tight windows. This is something he can, and will, overcome. The reads Kaep is making also need some work, but once again, this is correctable. He’ll get back on track.
The Run Game, or Lack of
In the first two weeks, there wasn’t much room for the running backs to make a difference. There are a lot of reasons for this. The inconsistent play of the offensive line play a role, the solid play of the defenses keying in on the running game. That being said, the run game was actually effective in the first half of the Colts game, yet curiously Gore only got a few carries in the second half after some big runs in the first. Rather than having a majority of handoffs come out of the read-option, the Niners need to become less predictive in their play calling.
Every team has injuries, every team has to overcome injuries. The Niners have been relatively blessed when it comes to injuries, this is before the end of last season and the start of workouts. This year has been a whole new story. LaMichael James, Patrick Willis, Ian Williams, Michael Crabtree, Mario Williams, Vernon Davis. This is a list of some pretty big names and pretty crucial role players that were not on the field or left the field during the game on Sunday. When this many important players go down, it is going to be a struggle. Only time can heal, so this problem is all about time.
Regardless of the ranking in the lower third of the league for passing yards per game and rushing yards per game, the Niners will be just fine. This coaching staff that Harbaugh and Baalke have put together will figure out how to get their team back on track. Do not worry 49er Faithful. The upcoming game against the Rams on Thursday will show that the Show are still a top tier NFL team. Kaep is using the recent failures as motivation.
Stay tuned and thanks for the read.
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