49ers vs. Giants: What to make of Colin Kaepernick and the Wolfpack package

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We take a look at Colin Kaepernick's work in the 49ers loss to the Giants, and what it means moving forward for the 49ers QB position.

One of the big discussion points after yesterday's 26-3 loss to the Giant was the 49ers use of Colin Kaepernick. After seeing one snap in Week 1 and none in Weeks 2 and 3, Colin Kaepernick has been utilized quite a bit the last three weeks. He had 11 snaps against the Jets, 19 against the Bills and 16 yesterday against the Giants. On the season, Kaepernick is 5 of 9 for 89 yards with two sacks, and has rushed 12 times for 112 yards with two touchdowns and a lost fumble.

The 49ers offense was looking solid in the first quarter, but struggled when the neared the end zone on their opening drives, and generally fell apart after that. Kaepernick had a chance to make some plays, but there was just not enough out there for him.

I took a look at the last three games and took a look at what Kaepernick did when he entered the game, and what happened the rest of that drive for the 49ers. This is far from a scientific study, but rather is a simple breakdown via the gamebooks provided by the NFL (Jets gamebook, Bills gamebook, Giants gamebook).

It should not be surprising that the 49ers have found more success from the Wolfpack package (or WildKaep, if you'd prefer) when they are playing with a lead and generally executing on offense. The 49ers struggled all day on offense, and they struggled when Kaepernick made his way into the game.

I do think there is room to work in Colin Kaepernick on a weekly basis. I don't think there is a magic number of snaps, but when the offense is struggling, I see value in trying to stick with one option over another. In the third quarter as things were falling apart, I tweeted out that at some point I thought Coach Harbaugh would make a switch to Kaepernick. I did not mean that as a long-term switch, but given the offenses struggles, a change could have been enough to shake things up.

By the fourth quarter, the 49ers were down 23-3 and not making much of anything happen. The 49ers ran two plays with Smith to start the fourth quarter, then had Smith back out with 11:16 to go on a drive that netted one first down before punting. Kaepernick got the final drive, netting two first downs before four and out. It strikes me that the fourth quarter would have made perfect sense to give Kaepernick a test-drive. No matter how well he performed Smith would be back Thursday against the Seahawks, but why not see if Kaepernick can spark the offense at that point?

It will be interesting to see how the 49ers utilize Kaepernick this Thursday against Seattle. After the game, Coach Harbaugh was fairly succinct about the game plan involving Kaepernick.

Certainly QB Colin Kaepernick in the two previous games, very successful plays. Is there ever a fear that by putting him in too much you disrupt the flow of the offense?

"Yes."

Do you think that could have been an issue today?

"Perhaps. The plan wasn't the best plan. And we'll work to make a good one this week. Wasn't a great day for any of us."

I honestly have no idea what to expect out of the game plan with Kaepernick. There is an argument being made that having him come in and out disrupts the flow of the offense. I think in reality it goes back to what Alex Smith said after the game yesterday:

Yeah, when it's working, it's great. It's like everything when we're winning. He's coming in to change up, for the most part, I don't know about today. Part of this is that it had been efficient. With Kaepernick going in there, he had been playing well.

I think that sums it up pretty well. When things are going well and everybody is executing, the Kaepernick package is great. When things are struggling, it's easy to throw it under the bus. I don't think we can make a general statement about the use of Kaepernick being bad or good or whatever for the offense. The key for the coaching staff is simply figuring out the proper uses for it. It is a system of plays that can be incredibly effective. It is also a system that can be a complete waste of time. I don't know enough about the 49ers game-plan and opposing defenses to say when specifically it will work and when it won't work. I just know the 49ers better figure it out soon.

Here is a rundown of Colin Kaepernick's snaps with the subsequent results after he leaves a drive. All come courtesy of the Giants gamebook, Bills gamebook and Jets gamebook.

VS GIANTS

Kaepernick play (0-0)

3rd and 6 at SF 26 - Frank Gore run for 0 yards

Following play(s)

Missed Akers field goal


Kaepernick play (0-0)

2nd and 11 at Giants 30 - Gore run for 6 yards

Following play(s)

3rd and 5 - Smith incomplete pass to Crabtree

Akers field goal


Kaepernick play (Giants lead 7-3)

2nd and 7 at Sf 26 - Goodwin false start

Following play(s)

2nd and 12 - Smith pass to Gore for 8 yards

3rd and 4 - Smith sacked for 9-yard loss

Punt


Kaepernick play (Giants lead 10-3)

1st and 10 at SF 30 with 11 seconds left - CK pass to Manningham for 36 yards

Following play(s)

Missed Akers field goal


Kaepernick play (Giants lead 17-3)

2nd and 8 at SF 21 - Manningham end around for 7 yards

Following play(s)

3rd and 1 - Smith in, Leonard Davis eligible extra blocker false start

3rd and 6 - Smith pass to Manningham intercepted


Kaepernick play (Giants lead 23-3)

1st and 10 at NYG 29 - Kaepernick sacked for 11-yard loss after Smith had completed 55-yard pass to Randy Moss

Following play(s)

2nd and 21 at NYG 40 - Smith incomplete pass to Walker

3rd and 21 - Smith pass to Hunter for 6 yards

4th and 15 - Smith pass to Davis for 7 yards


Kaepernick play (Giants lead 23-3)

1st and 10 at SF 32 after Smith 12-yard pass to Crabtree - pass to Crabtree for 7 yards

2nd and 3 - no huddle - Hunter up the middle for 7

1st and 10 - incomplete pass to Moss

2nd and 10 - CK scramble for -1 yards

End of 3rd quarter

Following play(s)

3rd and 11 - Smith sacked for -1 yards

Punt

VS BILLS

Kaepernick play (49ers lead 10-3)

3rd and 7 at SF 6 - Hunter left end for 14 yards, negated by tripping penalty

Following play(s)

3rd and 10 - Smith to Hunter for 12 yards

8 plays for Smith driving down to Buf 26

Kaepernick fumble on Buffalo 17


Kaepernick play (49ers lead 17-3)

1st and 10 at Buf 47 - Incomplete deep pass to Davis, offensive holding called

Following play(s)

Smith in for two plays - pass to Crabtree for 10 yards, Gore run for 31 yards

Kaepernick back (1st and 10 at Buf 16), scrambles for 15-yards, Gore follows with 1-yard TD run


Kaepernick play (49ers lead 24-3)

2nd and 6 - Gore run for 7 yards

Following play(s)

1st and 10 at Buf 10 - Smith pass to Manningham for TD


Kaepernick play (49ers lead 31-3)

1st and 10 at Buf 21 - after neutral zone infraction, CK scrambles 16 yards for TD

Following play(s)

Smith out of the game

VS JETS

Kaepernick play (0-0)

1st and 10 at SF 19 - Direct snap to CK, left tackle for 17 yards

Following play(s)

1st and 10 at SF 36 - Gore up the middle for 13 yards, negated by offensive holding

1st and 20 at SF 26 - Smith pass to Manningham for 26 yards

Kaepernick returns

1st and 10 at NYJ 48 - Incomplete pass to Randy Moss

Smith back

2nd and 10 at NYJ 48 - Gore for 3 yards

3rd and 7 - Smith incomplete pass to Manningham

Punt


Kaepernick play (0-0)

3rd and 6 at NYJ 7 - CK 7-yard run for TD

Following play(s)

Nothing


Kaepernick play (49ers lead 7-0)

1st and 10 at SF 23 - Gore right tackle for -1 yards

Following play(s)

Jets timeout with CK wide open as WR

2nd and 11 at SF 22 - Smith pass to Crabtree for 3 yards

3rd and 8 - Smith incomplete deep to Crabtree

Punt

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