Expectations were too high for Colin Kaepernick this season. It's understandable. He's supremely talented, and he took the NFL by storm while leading 49ers to the Super Bowl last season.
What wasn't as widely accounted for in regards to Kaepernick is the fact that he has no one to throw the ball to.
So the fact that the 49ers are 27th in passing offense and Kaepernick is completing less than 60 percent of his passes should not be that big of a surprise.
Moving into his third season in the league, his first as the full-time starter, Kaepernick still has plenty of developing to do. The biggest area comes with his ability to dissect a defense and locate targets in a position to do some damage.
To be clear, Kaepernick was far more advanced in this regard than could have been reasonably expected given he's spent the majority of his time in a read-option offense.
Last year, Kaepernick was able to succeed beyond this limitation by using his ability to run and heavily leaning on the team's best receiver, Michael Crabtree.
Having a dependable target is an important facet to any young quarterback. It's like a security blanket, and Kaepernick attached himself to his blanket like he was Linus from Peanuts.
With Kaepernick as the quarterback, Crabtree hauled in 41 catches for 595 yards and five touchdowns. As ESPN's Ken Daube points out, Kaepernick's throws to Crabtree were complete 67 percent of the time, and his receptions accounted for 59 percent of all catches made by 49ers receivers with Kaepernick as the quarterback.
So, when Crabtree tore his Achilles, Kaepernick had to be going through a bit of anxiety.
The problem with Crabtree's absence is not just the familiarity Kaepernick is losing but the fact that San Francisco has no one to replace his production.
Anquan Boldin is a quality receiver, but he doesn't have the ability to consistently get open when defenses can focus on him. Boldin relies on his strength, smarts and hands to make catches. He is not much of a deep threat. All of this makes it far too easy for defenses to take Boldin out of the equation when they don't have much else to fear in the 49ers' passing game.
Boldin has 24 catches for 372 yards thus far this season, and those numbers lead the team by leaps and bounds. In fact, the only other player to hit double digits in catches is tight end Vernon Davis.
Davis is a nice option in the pass game and he's been slowed this season while dealing with injury. If he can stay healthy, it should help this offense, but it's not going to save it. Davis has never had a 1,000-yard receiving season.
Beyond that, passing options are very thin in San Francisco. Kyle Williams isn't a type of receiver who is going to strike fear into any defense, and unless Jon Baldwin magically turns his career around, that kind of player is not on the 49ers' roster.
The 49ers are struggling simply to get receivers into their routes and open. Of course, this is going to lead to uneven performances from a young quarterback.
With good defense and a strong running game, the 49ers can still win games. And there is no doubt that Kaepernick is capable of turning in a game-changing play at any moment.
However, anyone looking for the 25-year-old to consistently turn in impeccable performances this year is going to be massively disappointed.
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