A year ago, Colin Kaepernick had a terrific exhibition season. In four games, he completed 15-of-23 passes, connected for two touchdowns and had a quarterback rating of 116.4.
After three games this summer, Kaepernick has yet to lead the offense to a touchdown, has completed 12-of-22 throws and has a QB rating of 69.3. And, on Sunday in the 49ers’ exhibition victory over the Chargers, he was hit early and often, looked out of sync and had two passes batted down.
After so much optimism built up during the offseason, with the 49ers beefing up the receiving corps, many fans and 49ers observers are wondering what’s happened. Where’s the offense? What’s wrong with Kaepernick?
Peter King of Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback expressed doubts about the Niners after the victory over the Chargers at Levi’s Stadium in which the first-team offense did very little.
“We all knew the Niners weren’t the Broncos in terms of offensive explosiveness, but San Francisco still was a team that ran for 2,200 yards and scored 25 points per game last year,” he wrote. “But there will be alarm bells going off today with offensive coordinator Greg Roman, particularly in protection, as the Niners get ready to go to Dallas in 13 days for the opener. Look at the Niners – what can you have faith in right now on offense?”
Indeed, the numbers are ugly. The first-team offense has produced just three points against the Ravens, Broncos and Chargers. And the offense as a whole ranks last in the NFL this summer in points, yards per game and passing yards per game and near the bottom in rushing yards per game and third-down percentage, according to ESPN.
The 49ers have just one more game left, an exhibititon at Houston vs. the Texans Thursday night, before the season opener at Dallas on Sept. 7.
So, are the 49ers worried? Not really.
Kaepernick told reporters after Sunday’s game that it’s “just preseason.” In other words, nothing counts. And head coach Jim Harbaugh also brushed off questions about the struggling offense, saying that he saw positive strides Sunday from the first-team offensive unit, particularly in a 55-yard drive in the second quarter that produced a field goal.
“Had some plays that were cleanly blocked,” Harbaugh told the media. “We had some passes thrown and caught. And the runners were seeing holes. Just all 11 playing together in a more precise way.”
Though the offense hasn’t looked good, judging a unit by its performance in meaningless games can be dangerous.
The game plans are vanilla, not all key players are on the field and there’s little sense of urgency for front-line players just trying to get ready for the regular season.
Tight end Vernon Davis, for one, believes 49ers fans will see a different result when the real games begin.
“Once we get rolling, once we get into our zone, then it’s all downhill after that,” Davis told Mark Purdy of the Bay Area News Group. “We can do whatever we want, whatever we put our minds to. But it’s just about getting into that zone. You have to find that zone. And it’s hard to find sometimes.”