49ers Blog and Q&A

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

October 5, 2013
Read option thriving across the NFL, but not in SF

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Last year the 49ers' read-option offense tormented defenses and sent opponents scurrying to all corners of the nation in search of ways to stop it. Judging from the numbers, it looks like they found the antidote. According to research from Pro Football Focus (@PFF), the 49ers have averaged a piddly 1.1 ground yards when they've run the read-option this year. That includes both plays in which Colin Kaepernick keeps the ball and those in which he gives it up to a tailback.

Still, the read option is far from dormant across the NFL, according to the PFF figures. Other teams that have read-option-capable quarterbacks have been running it with success. It's become a component of the Oakland's offense now that Terrelle Pryor is leading it, and the Raiders average 7.7 yards with it. Philadelphia and new head coach Chip Kelly use the read-option more than any team and average 7.1 yards a carry. NFL teams are on pace to call twice as many read-option plays as last season, although the average yard per run is down from 2012.

So why haven't the 49ers been able to sustain the success they had in 2012? A big part - and the subject of a story in Sunday's Bee - is that opponents simply are better prepared for it. That is, Kaepernick and the read option were novelties last season. He's not a surprise this year, and defenses are arriving with a game plan designed to stop the read option.

Three other teams that used it heavily in 2012 - Carolina, Washington and Seattle - all have seen their averages dip through the first four games this season, though not as prominently as the 49ers' drop. It will be interesting to see whether the Raiders and Eagles can sustain their read-option success or whether NFL defenses will catch up with them, too.

2013
MIA: 5 carries, 42 yards, 8.4-yard avg.
OAK: 21 carries, 162 yards, 7.7-yard avg.
PHI: 73 carries, 520 yards, 7.1-yard avg.
SEA 25 carries, 134 yards, 5.4-yard avg.
GB 1 carry, 5 yards, 5-yard avg.
TEN 1 carry, 5 yards, 5-yard avg.
NYJ 14 carries, 61 yards, 4.4-yard avg.
CAR 24 carries, 95 yards, 4-yard avg.
WAS 14 carries, 54 yards, 3.9-yard avg.
BUF 47 carries, 128 yards, 2.7-yard avg.
MIN 3 carries, 8 yards, 2.7-yard avg.
JAX 3 carries, 6 yards, 2-yard avg.
KC 5 carries, 10 yards, 2-yard avg.
SF 16 carries, 17 yards, 1.1-yard avg.
TB 1 carry, 1 yard, 1-yard avg.
CLV 3 carries, 2 yards, 0.7-yard avg.
Total: 256 carries,1250 yards, 4.9-yard avg.

2012*
BUF 13 carries, 108 yards, 8.3-yard avg.
BLT 6 carries, 46 yards, 7.7-yard avg.
PHI 3 carries, 23 yards, 7.7-yard avg.
MIA 10 carries, 75 yards, 7.5-yard avg.
SEA 50 carries, 374 yards, 7.5-yard avg.
CAR 142 carries, 856 yards, 6-yard avg.
WAS 134 carries, 798 yards, 6-yard avg.
ARZ 4 carries, 22 yards, 5.5-yard avg.
CIN 3 carries, 15 yards, 5-yard avg.
SF 49 carries, 220 yards, 4.5-yard avg.
NYJ 32 carries, 128 yards, 4-yard avg.
PIT 1 carry, 3 yards, 3-yard avg.
OAK 2 carries, 4 yards, 2-yard avg
SD 1 carry, 2 yards, 2-yard avg.
MIN 1 carry, 1 yard 1-yard avg.
IND 1 carry, 0 yards 0-yard avg.
TEN 5 carries, -14 yards, -2.8-yard avg.
Total: 457 carries, 2661 yards, 5.8-yard avg.

Source: Pro Football Focus
* regular season only

-- Matt Barrows

August 16, 2013
Live chat replay: 49ers prepare to face Alex Smith

The 49ers get to play against their one-time leader, quarterback Alex Smith, who now runs plays for the Kansas City Chiefs. Matt Barrows answered questions today in an 11 a.m. chat.


July 25, 2013
We will rock you? Kaepernick not worried about opponents' tactics this season

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One of the storylines during the NFL offseason has been how defenses -- like that of the 49ers' Week 1 opponent, Green Bay -- will adjust to the proliferation of read-option quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick. And one of the possible solutions is to hit the quarterback whether he keeps the football or not.

That's the tactic the Ravens took in the Super Bowl. Whether it was effective or not is a bit fuzzy. Sure, the Ravens won the game. But the 49ers racked up 468 yards of offense while Kaepernick threw for 302 yards and ran for another 62 yards.

Kaepernick today didn't seem all that concerned about being roughed up this season. If defenses use that as a strategy, he said, the 49ers offense will adjust. "It's a chess match," he said.

Despite all the times he exited the pocket last year, Kaepernick mostly avoided big hits. The most violent jolt he's ever absorbed? It was delivered by then-Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon when Kaepernick was a sophomore at Nevada.

"I was on the run," he said. "He got a good shot on my shoulders and head. Best lick I've taken." Did he return to the game? "Knock on wood, I haven't been knocked out yet," Kaepernick said with a smile.

May 13, 2013
Packers' rookie doesn't think Kaepernick can keep up his pace

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Colin Kaepernick spent the divisional playoff game running through the Green Bay Packers defense and the offseason running through the Packers' minds. Green Bay's offseason, it seems, has been dedicated to making sure its defense never gets gouged like it did Jan. 12 when Kaepernick ran for 181 yards - an NFL record for a quarterback - and scored two touchdowns in a 45-31 win at Candlestick Park.

The team's coaches headed to Texas A&M in the offseason for a tutorial on how to stop the read-option attack. And they used their first-round draft pick on defensive end Datone Jones, who faced plenty of read-option defenses while at UCLA. The Green Bay Press-Gazette recently wrote about how Jones is well-suited to stopping quarterbacks like Kaepernick and Washington's Robert Griffin III.

"I thought he was pretty good," Jones said of Kaepernick's playoff game against Green Bay. "But I don't think they're going to be able to run him like that. He takes one good hit, there goes their season."

Here's the rub: Kaepernick may hold the single-game rushing record for a quarterback. But unlike Griffin's Redskins, the read-option was only a part - sometimes a small part - of the 49ers offense. He averaged six carries per game in his seven regular-season starts. In arguably his best game of the regular season against Chicago, he ran the ball four times for 10 yards. Yes, that number jumped to 16 carries against the Packers in the divisional playoffs. But a week later against the Falcons, he had two carries for 21 yards.

May 12, 2013
Kaepernick watches B.J. Daniels shine; Baalke observes Okoye in action

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As if B.J. Daniels and Nate Montana weren't under enough pressure ... Midway through Saturday's rookie minicamp practice, a guy wearing a yellow Warriors cap and a white Warriors jersey walked onto the practice field. It was Colin Kaepernick, who hung around to watch most of the session. (The only other veteran observer has been Anthony Davis, whose brother, Andre, is getting a tryout). What did Kaepernick see?

Both quarterbacks have looked sharp at times, albeit in a shells-only, minimum-pass-rush, don't-touch-the-quarterback context. Daniels in particular isn't shy about flinging the ball downfield, and he connected on long downfield passes to receiver Brandon Carswell and tight end H-back MarQueis Gray. Montana connected deep with receiver Greg Wilson.

Daniels has a quicker release than Montana and is much more active in the pocket. Like Kaepernick, he also is comfortable running with the ball, and he had two long runs around the right side with Kaepernick observing from the sideline.

**********************
As you would expect at this type of camp, there were highlights and lowlights for every player on Saturday. Montana, for example, was late or off target on a few throws. With none of his deep receivers open, he checked down to running back Isi Sofele, who was 10 yards away. The pass, however, may have been too hard, and it went through Sofele's hands and was intercepted by inside linebacker Nate Stupar. Stupar will compete this summer with Dan Skuta, Michael Wilhoite and draft pick Nick Moody for one of the backup roles behind Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.

May 6, 2013
Go Alex Smith? KC's 2013 record will affect 49ers' 2014 draft

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For 49ers fans this season, it's root, root, root for the home team ... and the team in Kansas City.

That's because the Chiefs' record will have a bearing on San Francisco's draft. As Peter King reported this morning in Sports Illustrated, the 49ers would get Kansas City's second-round pick in the 2014 draft if the Chiefs, who have one of the easiest schedules in the league this year, finish 8-8 or better. It drops to a third-round pick if the Chiefs finish below .500.

A pick in next year's draft was one of the conditions in the deal that sent quarterback Alex Smith to Kansas City earlier this year. That deal also supplied the 49ers with a second-round pick in the most recent draft, which they used in a draft-day trade with the Tennessee Titans. The 49ers eventually took Florida State defensive end Tank Carradine in the second-round and also got Tennessee's third-round pick in 2014.

The Chiefs finished 2-14 last season and wound up with the top pick in the draft, which they used on offensive tackle Eric Fisher. Of course, if they finished poorly again in 2013, their third-round pick - which would go to the 49ers - would be high in the round. If they were better than .500, the pick that goes to San Francisco would be in the middle or back end of Round 2. The best case scenario for the 49ers: The Chiefs finish 8-8.

May 3, 2013
Motor Car, ink.: Kaepernick the new face -- and arms -- for Jaguar

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The new spokesman for Jaguar collects sneakers, has a pet tortoise and is covered in tattoos.

Yes, the stuffy British car company is getting a facelift with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has been shooting a commercial in his new, sporty Jaguar F-Type V8 S.

The shooting took at least three days and features Kaepernick in his car at various Bay Area locales - including Santa Clara, on the shoreline and in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. Why did it take three days? Because Kaepernick insisted on sticking to his normal routine of workouts and practice at the 49ers' facility in Santa Clara before shooting each afternoon.

The deal provides Kaepernick with a sleek, $92,000 burgundy convertible, which replaces the gray Chrysler sedan Rick Kaepernick bought his son almost a decade ago. Jaguar, however, might have the better end of the bargain. It gets to be hip. And it benefits from Kaepernick's crossover appeal.

"The coolest thing is that they're embracing him head to toe - his tattoos, everything," said Shawn Smith, Kaepernick's marketing agent.

In fact, Kaepernick's ink - deemed "controversial" by some when he became the 49ers' starter midway through last season - figures prominently in the commercial, which will air for the first time on ESPN on May 22. The theme is "Kaepernick's Bay Area" and the ad includes stops at the quarterback's barber shop and his favorite tattoo parlor.

Will the spot include the 49ers quarterback "Kaepernicking" - that's kissing his right biceps for the uninitiated - in front of his new car?

Said Smith: "That's probably a safe bet."

-- Matt Barrows

April 4, 2013
49ers draft scenarios: Ten (plus) minutes with Daniel Jeremiah

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What should the 49ers do with their 13 picks? Daniel Jeremiah had a well-thought-out plan and some specific targets.

After all, that's his job. The former Eagles, Browns and Ravens scouts now is a regular on NFLN's "Path to the Draft." The show's "inside the war room" segments -- on which Jeremiah is a regular -- are particularly worthwhile because they not only break down prospects but also every team's needs and how the players fit.

Jeremiah told me he 10 minutes to talk 49ers. We ended up talking for 12. Here's what he had to say:

Q: What are the chances the 49ers use their 13 picks to move up in the draft?

DJ: Well, I think they have all sorts flexibility to do a couple of things. One is to trade up and target someone they really, really like. If there was a safety they were in love with, they could move up a little bit and get him. Also if there was a defensive lineman they like ... If they had a huge grade on someone like, say, Star Lotulelei and he slid down a little bit, maybe they move up to get someone like him.

I think more likely than that -- where they're positioned they can address their needs with the way the draft shakes out. And I think they can even spin off some of these extra picks for picks next year because there's no way -- 13 or 14 picks, whatever they have left -- there's no way all those kids are going to make their roster. So I think they can make some moves and accumulate picks in next year's draft.

Q: Well, knowing what they need, who do you think they could go with at picks 31 and 34 if they stayed put?

April 3, 2013
Colt McCoy on the run: Think Alex Smith, not Colin Kaepernick

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Colt McCoy says he has experience running the read option out of the shotgun, and he has the numbers to back him up. In four years at the University of Texas, McCoy rushed for 1,589 yards and scored 20 rushing touchdowns, and he finished second to Sam Bradford in Heisman Trophy voting in 2008.

Still, it's hard to imagine that McCoy (6-1, 220) would get the same play calls as Colin Kaepernick if he ever entered a game in Kaepernick's place. McCoy, who ran a very respectable 4.73-second 40-yard dash at the combine in 2010, hasn't had nearly the same success rushing in the NFL, albeit in offenses that didn't emphasize a rushing quarterback. He's run 93 times, averaging 3.9 yards and scoring one rushing touchdown. He's also fumbled 12 times, losing two of them.

Instead, the play calls likely would be similar to what Alex Smith received over the last two seasons. Smith also was a very good rusher in college - 1,072 yards, 15 rushing touchdowns in just two seasons - who wasn't nearly as prolific in the NFL. He has 761 rushing yards, four touchdowns and a 3.6-yard average over his career.

Said McCoy when asked about running with the 49ers: "The read option and the pistol - they've obviously done a great job with that with Colin (Kaepernick) and his skills, being able to run and pass, a dual threat. We did a lot of that when I was in in college. I feel capable of doing that. But, again, I need to spend some time in the playbook and get familiar with it first of all before we ever get out on the field."

- Matt Barrows

April 1, 2013
Backup position: 49ers deal for Browns QB Colt McCoy

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The 49ers added depth to what had been a shallow quarterback corps today by dealing two late-round picks to Cleveland for Browns quarterback Colt McCoy and a sixth-round pick, a league source confirmed. McCoy started 21 games in Cleveland in 2010 and 2011 but lost his starting job to first-round pick Brandon Weeden last year.

He was due to earn $1.5 million -- too much for the Browns, who also acquired quarterback Jason Campbell in free agency last week. The trade first was reported by CBS Sports.com.

McCoy now will battle Scott Tolzien for the right to back up Colin Kaepernick in the upcoming season. While Tolzien has yet to throw a pass in a regular-season game, McCoy, 26, has thrown 702 passes, completing 58.3 percent of them with 21 touchdowns against 20 interceptions. He has a career 74.8 passer rating.

Tolzien is a little taller than McCoy -- 6-3 vs. 6-1 -- but McCoy has more mobility. He rushed for 1,589 yards and scored 20 rushing touchdowns at the University of Texas and finished second to Sam Bradford for the Heisman Trophy in 2008. Tolzien, meanwhile, rushed for -9 yards overall at Wisconsin. Both players do not have strong arms and fall under the "game manager" category for quarterbacks.

McCoy was a third-round pick by the Browns in 2010. He missed three games that season with an ankle injury and the final three games of the 2011 after sustaining a concussion in a game against Pittsburgh. He is the second Texas-by-way-of-Cleveland product the 49ers have acquired this offseason. The team signed ex-Browns kicker Phil Dawson last month.

The 49ers dealt their fifth-round pick (no. 164 overall) as well as the earliest of four seventh-round picks (No. 227) to Cleveland. In return, the 49ers got McCoy and the Browns' sixth-round pick (No. 173 overall). The 49ers now have 13 total picks in this month's draft, and they still could take a quarterback. The only other passer they have looked at is free agent Pat White, who worked out for the team last week but left without a contract.

-- Matt Barrows

March 28, 2013
QB Pat White visiting the 49ers today

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The phone call that former West Virginia quarterback Pat White placed to Jim Harbaugh earlier this month hit the mark.

White flew into the Bay Area last night and was on the field throwing the ball with the 49ers coach this afternoon, a source confirmed. White is the only quarterback known to have visited the 49ers, who likely will add two to their offseason roster. The hope, at least from White's camp, is that the he signs with the 49ers before he departs.

White threw for 6,049 yards and had 56 touchdowns for the Mountaineers while rushing for 4,480 yards and 47 touchdowns, and in that way has at least some of the characteristics of the 49ers' starter, Colin Kaepernick.

White placed a call to Harbaugh after West Virginia's pro day earlier this month. White performed for scouts both at the West Virginia and Virginia Tech pro days.

"I pay attention to how his players react to Coach Harbaugh," White told USA Today over the weekend. "They all want to win for him. And he seems to treat them how they want to be treated. I'm excited to get to know him on that level -- if I do get that opportunity. I'm very optimistic about making it back to the NFL."

White, 27, was the 44th overall pick by the Dolphins in 2009 and has been out of football since the Dolphins released him at the end of training camp in 2010. The 6-0, 190-pound White attempted five passes his rookie season ion 2009. None of them were complete, he was sacked once and and he fumbled once. He also rushed 21 times for 81 yards.

White has been working with San Diego-based quarterback coach George Whitfield in an effort to spark an NFL comeback.

The 49ers, meanwhile, have just two quarterbacks on the roster at the moment - Kaepernick and Scott Tolzien. Josh Johnson, who spent the 2012 offseason in Santa Clara, signed with the Bengals last week.

-- Matt Barrows

March 27, 2013
Phantom phone call: 49ers QB pursuit remains a mystery

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Yes, Jim Harbaugh and Pat White spoke on the phone earlier this month. But the 49ers' interest in the former West Virginia quarterback may not be quite as strong as previously supposed.

According to a source with knowledge of the conversation, it was White who, at the prompting of his agent, placed the call to Harbaugh, not the other way around. White hasn't thrown an NFL pass since he was released by the Dolphins at the close of the 2010 preseason. He's taken part in recent pro days at West Virginia and Virginia Tech in an effort to spark new interest.

White told USA Today that he hoped to work out in front of Harbaugh and the 49ers coaches.

The Dolphins drafted White in the second round in 2009 when Bill Parcells ran Miami's personnel department. Parcells has since said he regretted the pick. "He just wasn't a prototypical quarterback pick," Parcells told the Miami Herald in 2011. "He was a great college player, and we let that color our judgment."

Parcells, meanwhile, gave 49ers GM Trent Baalke his first NFL scouting job with the Jets, and Parcells has remained a mentor for Baalke.

The 49ers likely will add two more to the roster for training camp. So far, however, there's been little buzz as far as free-agent quarterbacks and none are known to have made visits to Santa Clara. The 49ers reportedly were one of the teams initially interested in Matt Hasselbeck when he was released by Tennessee last week. Hasselbeck, of course, quickly was snapped up by the Colts to be Andrew Luck's backup. Another veteran quarterback, Carson Palmer, may become available if the Raiders part ways with Palmer due to his hefty salary.

The team never showed any interest in Josh Johnson, who spent the 2012 offseason with the 49ers. Johnson last week signed with the Bengals.

-- Matt Barrows

March 18, 2013
QB Watch: Josh Johnson waiting for a call; what about Thigpen?

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****UPDATE**** The Titans today announced the release of veteran Matt Hasselbeck. The 49ers tried to sign the 14-year veteran in 2011. ESPN reported that the 49ers are one of several teams that have shown initial interest in Hasselbeck, 37. The others are: Arizona, Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indianapolis, New Orleans, the Giants and Tampa.

****UPDATE II***** Hasselbeck is reportedly close to a deal with the Colts.

Who will join Colin Kaepernick and Scott Tolzien on the 49ers' quarterback depth chart in 2013? So far, the answer is unknown. The quarterback market has been mostly quiet during free agency, and it's likely to remain so early in the week while owners, coaches and general managers are at the annual league meeting in Phoenix. (One free-agent QBs, Ryan Fitzpatrick, also is in Phoenix; he's reportedly met with the Titans and Bengals).

A year ago, the 49ers signed former Jim Harbaugh protege Josh Johnson, and he spent the offseason in Santa Clara. I spoke to Johnson today, who said he hadn't personally heard from the 49ers. He's visited the Bengals and said "a couple more teams" had expressed interest though he had no visits scheduled as of now. Last year he visited the 49ers and the Redskins. He was picked up by the Browns in late December.

Johnson, who also played for the UFL's Sacramento Mountain Lions last year, said he wouldn't rule out the 49ers despite the fact they chose Tolzien over him at the end of the exhibition season. "It just depends on the situation," he said. "I'm just trying to find the best fit."

Another name that has been linked to the 49ers is Tyler Thigpen. The Coastal Carolina quarterback has been working out alongside Kaepernick and a few other 49ers - including wideout A.J. Jenkins - at CES Performance in Atlanta since mid February. Thigpen has two criteria that Harbaugh holds most dear in a quarterback - he's ultra competitive and he has good athleticism.



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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