Alex Smith vs. Colin Kaepernick: Are the 49ers Splitting Snaps Sensibly?
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The 49ers actually got off to a good start, moving the ball quite well on their first two drives. Unfortunately, they could not put the ball into the end zone and settled for two David Akers field-goal attempts. He made only one, so all the 49ers could muster on two good drives was three points.
Following these two drives, the Giants made some defensive adjustments and the 49ers had trouble generating any consistency on offense. The offensive line had trouble against the tough front seven of the Giants and allowed six sacks.
One of the most interesting things about this game was how the offensive coordinator tried to utilize Colin Kaepernick. Starting quarterback Alex Smith struggled, and his three interceptions were totally uncharacteristic of how Smith has played under Jim Harbaugh.
49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman seemed like he became impatient and tried to force things with Kaepernick. Roman shuffled Smith and Kaepernick in and out more than he had ever done in the past. This tactic seemed to backfire, and the 49ers had no offensive continuity or rhythm.
It seemed to me that Roman was playing with a new toy and overused it. The constant shuttling in of Kaepernick against the Giants was excessive and ultimately hurt the 49ers offense.
A classic example of this is the play after Smith connected with Randy Moss on a 55-yard completion. Roman chose to insert Kaepernick, who went back to pass, held the ball way too long and took an 11-yard sack. This was a huge mistake and killed the momentum of the offense.
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It is clear to me that Kaepernick has all of the physical tools needed to be an excellent quarterback. However, he is not there yet. Kaepernick still has a lot to learn, as the successful plays he makes are generally the result of his athleticism as opposed to his mastery of the offense.
Smith clearly has a much stronger command of the offense and should continue to get the lion's share of plays. Kaepernick's command and understanding of the 49ers' complex offense is still a work in progress.
There is a time and place to use Kaepernick. I think the red zone and just outside of the red zone are potentially good spots. However, Roman must pick and choose his spots and not overuse Kaepernick at the expense of Smith.
Prior to the Giants game, I felt that Roman was utilizing Kaepernick properly. He was picking his spots judiciously, but that changed against the Giants.
In order for the 49ers to have offensive continuity, Roman needs to stick with Smith for the vast majority of the plays.
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