Last week, San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke confirmed reports that QB Colin Kaepernick has resumed throwing as he continues his recovery from multiple surgeries. With trade rumors behind him – at least for now – Kaepernick remains on the 49ers roster and will try to prepare himself for a competition with Blaine Gabbert, who took over for him following his benching last season.
Spoke with #49ers GM Trent Baalke today. Among other things, he confirmed Colin Kaepernick has resumed throwing. Not yet cleared to practice— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 13, 2016
Like it or not, the quarterback competition will likely be the top story of the 49ers offseason. Gabbert, who is completely healthy, will take the early lead as organized team activities (OTAs) kick off on Tuesday. "Blaine Gabbert's doing a great job taking control of the offense and leading the offense," said center Daniel Kilgore last week. Kaepernick will enter the competition when he is cleared to practice.
Stylistically, Gabbert fairly well-suited for Kelly's scheme. Much better fit than Kaepernick for passing game.— Andy Benoit (@Andy_Benoit) May 13, 2016
The offensive line for the 49ers was bad in 2015. Really bad. It didn't even matter who was behind center as Kaepernick was pressured nearly 40-percent of the time behind that offensive line while Gabbert was pressured nearly 38-percent of the time. According to Football Outsiders, when it comes to pass protection, the 49ers offensive line ranked second-to-last among the 32 NFL teams, ahead of just the Tennessee Titans. They allowed the quarterback to be sacked 53 times last season with Kaepernick going down 28 times and Gabbert accounting for the other 25.
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Out of 624 drop backs, Colin Kaepernick had an average of 2.55 seconds per pass attempt, per Pro Football Focus. Gabbert had just 2.38 seconds. Kaepernick's QB rating was higher than Gabbert's when he had less than 2.6 seconds to pass. However, when the offensive line allowed 2.6 seconds or more, that is when Gabbert had the advantage over his competition.
Less than 2.6 seconds
Colin Kaepernick: 84.0 QB rating
Blaine Gabbert: 78.7 QB rating
2.6 seconds or more
Colin Kaepernick: 69.6 QB rating
Blaine Gabbert: 102.7 QB rating
Colin Kaepernick: 35.2% completion, 46.8% accuracy
Blaine Gabbert: 51.8% completion, 61% accuracy
Kaepernick tore a ligament in his throwing hand's thumb during an October 22 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. During his next game, a November 1 matchup against the St. Louis Rams, Kaepernick said that he suffered a bone bruise and cracked cartilage. That game would be his last of the season before being benched and eventually placed on injured reserve.
While none of his injuries are expected to cause long-term issues, he has had surgeries on his left shoulder, thumb, and knee since being placed on injured reserve.
Regardless of the numbers, there are many that feel that a healthy Kaepernick holds an advantage over Gabbert for the starting job. After all, since being drafted out of Nevada in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Kaepernick has led San Francisco to two NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl.
Either way, it will be an interesting story to keep an eye on once Kaepernick is cleared for practice.
OTA's will take place May 17-19, May 24-26, May 31, and June 1-2. During OTAs, no live contact is permitted. 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills with helmets are permitted, but cannot exceed six hours per day with a maximum of two hours on the field for any one player.