Trying to become more of a passing team hurt both the San Francisco 49ers and Colin Kaepernick, resulting in a massive change from the sidelines to the field. This season, with Carlos Hyde, Reggie Bush and Kendall Hunter sharing the running back role, focusing the offense on the ground game seems advisable.
It begins with Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback who last season saw his worth and overall production drop drastically (from sixth to 14 in ESPN’s QBR ratings), as Greg Roman and Jim Harbaugh often neglected the running game midway through a game and tried too hard making Kaepernick into a pocket passer and forgetting to utilize his impressive athletic skills.
From what’s been reported out of the 49ers’ training camp, Kaepernick hasn’t changed. He does have a tweaked throwing motion, but overall, it’s more of the same. Incredible strength on his throws, but sometimes he has a problem with his mechanics, not to mention still struggling at times with his reads. If the offensive line is better than last season, those flaws will be hidden most of the time.
And yet this isn’t an offense to build some air-raid plans on. Sure, Torrey Smith has arrived, Anquan Boldin can still help and so can Vernon Davis while Reggie Bush will add a dimension from the backfield on passing downs. But this team is better suited for running the ball, with Kaepernick taking more risks as he steps out of the pocket.
Kaepernick did end up rushing more in 2014 than in 2013, but a lot of times it was him bootlegging when the pocket collapsed. Frank Gore crossed the 1000-yards mark once again and the 49ers were fourth in the league in rushing. But it felt that too many times they diverted from what works best for them and didn’t have the passing game to justify that choice.
Hyde is going to be the guy who runs between the tackles. Bush will be for passing downs. Hunter will simply part of the rotation, and maybe getting more opportunities than in previous years, because unless he blows away everyone’s expectations, Hyde won’t get 240 or 250 carries next season. He expects to, so he can reach 1000 yards, but he probably won’t.
And through all of this – forcing teams to move away from eight-in-the-box due to fear of Smith’s speed and maybe Bush as well, Kaepernick needs to improve as a quarterback, passer and decision maker. Running the ball opens up so many things, including giving the defense time to rest. The 49ers need to stick with what’s brought them success over the last few years, and hope the rest falls into place.