San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith has been getting attention for improved play this season, but backup Colin Kaepernick proved early in the team’s game against the New York Jets that he can play a significant role in the offense.
While spectators were expecting the Jets to be the team running gadget plays with versatile backup QB Tim Tebow, the Niners were much more successful using their second-stringer’s special skill set.
Kaepernick first made his mark on San Francisco’s second drive of the game, when he lined up at quarterback, kept the ball on a option play and scampered for 17 yards.
The 49ers also attempted to use Kaepernick’s scrambling ability as a decoy on that same drive. He once again lined up under center, then ran a play-action pass to try to get Randy Moss open down the field. The Jets were not fooled, but the young quarterback threw the ball anyway. Moss was nearly able to beat three Jets defenders to make a play on the ball.
Early in the second quarter, the Niners showed they had no intention of keeping Kaepernick on the sideline, and he scored the first touchdown of his career on a seven-yard run.
The mobile quarterback is in his second season in the NFL after being taken in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft out of Nevada.
Smith’s emergence as an efficient quarterback ensures that he will be the permanent starter in San Francisco. However, the Niners' offense is centered around the run, and using Kaepernick is an effective way to keep the opposing defense off-balance while still moving the ball on the ground.
As Kaepernick also proved, he has a rocket arm and is not afraid to throw the ball down the field. This expands the options for the plays that can be called for Kaepernick.
However, throwing plays called for the backup QB will likely be rare as the Niners have no reason to take such risks because of their elite defense. But his ability to pick up yardage on the ground should earn him a few carries each week.
Expect Kaepernick to play a minor role in the offense this season, but he will still consistently see the field for a few plays each Sunday.