49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

September 6, 2012
Fastballs: 49ers defenders tap Kaepernick in preparing for Rodgers

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The 49ers defense is using a secret weapon this week to prepare for Aaron Rodgers' arm strength.

Rodgers threw only six interceptions last season, but as safety Donte Whitner noted today, he was plenty aggressive when it came to attacking defensive backs. Whitner said that those defensive backs often had opportunities to intercept Rodgers, but that they just weren't accustomed to the velocity of his passes and that would-be interceptions fell harmlessly incomplete.

To prepare this week, Whitner said the defensive backs have been spending extra time with the JUGGs machine and also with a real, live football cannon - backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The second-year quarterback had the strongest arm in the 2011 draft, and his passes come out so quickly that they're often difficult to catch.

"You catch one of his passes and your hands will be burning," Whitner said.

Kaepernick has learned to take some speed off of his passes, and his receivers are catching them more easily now than they did at the beginning of the offseason. But Whitner and his mates have been ordering up passes with extra mustard as they prepare for Rodgers.

"I've never caught a football as hard as Kaepernick throws," Whitner said. "He really throws a fastball."


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Whitner also said the 49ers have studied the tape of the Packers' divisional loss to the Giants in January. It was Rodgers' worst outing of the year. He threw two touchdowns, one interception, was sacked four times and finished with a 78.5 passer rating.

One of the keys to the game was that the Giants were able to pressure Rodgers without blitzing. The 49ers also were able to apply pressure last year with just four pass rushers, enabling them to drop the maximum number of defenders into coverage.

Whitner said staying out of one-on-one matchups against Rodgers and his talented receivers is paramount. "It takes a lot of stress off the back end," he said of a good, four-man rush.

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How much will Kaepernick appear this season? The 49ers are keeping everyone guessing, but the read-option plays that Kaepernick ran in the exhibition season were so effective that it's hard to see the 49ers not turning to the play on game days. "It's definitely a possibility," offensive coordinator Greg Roman said.

Roman noted that Andrew Luck ran the read option at times at Stanford and that Alex Smith, who played in a spread system at Utah, also can run it.

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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