On offense, the San Francisco 49ers have had a number of problems during the first five weeks of the regular season. That has led Chip Kelly the head coach to make a quarterback change. Kelly announced on Wednesday that Colin Kaepernick would become the starting signal caller and Blaine Gabbert his backup.
The biggest issue of all the 49ers offense has faced is getting the ball downfield. As a starter the first five weeks, Gabbert completed only two passes that that were 21 yards or more in length and a rating of 37.3 on deep throws was next to last amongst all quarterbacks, showed an online stats site.
He missed receivers who were open on deep throws a number of times, including against Dallas with one resulting in an interception. Last week in the 49ers loss to Arizona, Gabbert missed deep throws to Torrey Smith and Rod Streater.
With the 49ers not able to make any legitimate downfield threat, defenses began crowding the line with their front seven, which slowed down the San Francisco running game and limited its opportunities for large runs after short passes as well.
Deep throws are what Kelly’s offense was all about the past three years with the Eagles when Philadelphia was No. 5 in the league with 69 receptions on long passes and No. 2 in touchdowns over that period with 26.
Kaepernick, with a strong arm, had much more success with long throws even while struggling in other parts of his game last season when he was replaced as the starter midway through the season.
Before being benched, Kaepernick completed 10 of his 26 deep throws for 451 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
San Francisco hopes Kaepernick can connect on some of those long balls when it plays Buffalo this weekend. It will be Kaepernick’s first start since November 1, 2015.
Prior to Kaepernick taking snaps with the first time this week he signed a new two-year restructured contract on Wednesday. The new contract replaces his previous one that was through the 2020 season and takes the 49ers off the hook for a 2017 injury guarantee of $14.5 million.
It also gives Kaepernick an option to void the deal’s second year and be a free agent if he wants starting in March of 2017.
The new deal converts roster bonuses of $2 million for Kaepernick this year into guarantees with the opportunity to earn another $1 million on meeting thresholds in playing time.