Conventional wisdom among fans is either the quarterback has it or he doesn't. After last season, many of us could see something special in Colin Kaepernick, thinking he definitely possessed the it factor, even among some of the harshest critics.
We have discussed ad nauseam why Kap is not himself this season. There has been much speculation, ranging from the notion that he no longer has the aforementioned it factor to some kind of mental disconnect to lack of confidence. There are even those who believe his off-season activities changed him and his drive. Honestly, I could not put my finger on it. But, everyone knew something was wrong.
Saturday morning, Tim Kawakami stated there was scuttlebutt suggesting mechanical issues related to his mysterious foot injury could be the problem:
Several NFL sources have suggested that Kaepernick seemed to be having trouble going from his plant (right) foot to his land (left) foot during his throwing motion, which could be what was sending many of his passes sailing high.
This season, Kaepernick has completed 56.6 percent of his passes, averaged 7.4 yards per attempt, and has thrown five picks in 182 attempts. During the 2012 regular season, Kap completed 62.5 percent of his passes, averaged 8.6 yards per attempt and threw three picks in 218 attempts.
Kawakami went on to break down a theoretically healthy/non-healthy Kaepernick:
Kaepernick vs. Green Bay and Tennessee: 66.7 percent completion percentage, 3 touchdown passes, 0 interceptions, 18 rushes for 90 yards, 1 rushing TD. Kaepernick in Weeks 2 through 6: 51.6 percent, 5 TD passes, 5 interceptions, 24 rushes for 150 yards, 0 rushing TDs.
I believe these numbers explain a lot. We know Kaepernick has been dealing with a mystery foot injury. Kawakami speculated he sustained the injury during the Green Bay game. It is worth noting Kap did not make an appearance on the injury report until the days following the Week 2 loss to the Seahawks.
Even small injuries can adversely affect the bio-mechanics of the ability to throw. There are multiple theories on proper throwing technique. I do not subscribe to the "footwork only philosophy" when it comes to throwing, but throwing with strength and accuracy begins with the feet and starts a chain reaction.
From a bio-mechanical standpoint, when the body works in tandem, the stronger muscles of the entire body release significant torque on the tricep, one of the smallest muscles in the arm. It is physics. For example, when two people jump together at the same time on a trampoline, what happens? The smaller person goes higher (or further). It is the same concept with bio-mechanics, the triceps is the smaller person that goes much farther with the help of the entire body.
A good player can compensate for injury, but it can (and usually does) throw off the mechanics. And, it is challenging to get the same consistency and accuracy every time. If the entire body does not release succinctly, the throw can come up short or it can be overthrown.
Kawakami suspected Kap suffered the foot injury in the week 1 victory over Green Bay. I looked on the All 22 for the play in which he could have been injured. I did not see any specific possibilities for contact injury. I was also looking at Kaepernick's mechanics. I noticed only one really bad throw, where he was short to Kyle Williams. But, he turned around and continued to make very accurate passes to Boldin late in the game. I do not believe he was injured in that game. Save the one throw to Williams (which should have been a TD), Kap passed beautifully.
In the week 2 loss against Seattle, Kap threw a pick in the first quarter. However, that interception was tipped. It happens to the best quarterbacks, and sometimes tips are going to land in the wrong hands. It was unfortunate Seattle got a finger on it, but it was not a bad throw. But, in the second quarter, Kaepernick was sacked by defensive end, Michael Bennett. He was taken down by the left ankle. I believe this is where his foot was injured.
It makes sense. Kaepernick first showed up on the injury report after the Seahawks game. He went off, but was back on during week 5 and continues to show up on the report. Following the sack, it appears Kap favored the left foot when he threw, i.e., he threw off his back foot several times. I should note, Kap does this pretty well. But, it is not remotely as successful when his feet are properly planted and positioned.
In the second quarter, I also noticed an easy run lane to make a first down safely. It should be noted, he ran earlier in the game for the first down without hesitation. But, after the sack, Kap did not run.
At this point, we were only down by 5 points. In the third, Kap threw off his back foot and threw the second pick. He was short, but this one was not tipped. It was on Kap. This is where we all started to see Kap not resemble himself. And, it was even more puzzling against the Colts.
Do I think the foot injury is serious? No. However, we all know the ball grip, arm posturing and body mechanics are all involved when throwing a football. Kap may have realized he was not able to get the same torque. If he was experiencing frustrations, it may have limited the play calls to shorter slants. Additionally, without being fully healthy to run, the coaches may not have been willing to run the greater risk of Kap getting hurt, or further exacerbate his foot injury. The long term can't always be sacrificed for the short term. Fortunately, we were successful with the run game.
It appears Kap has returned to his old self these past few weeks, like someone flipped the light switch. I believe the foot injury could be close to 100%, which would explain a great deal. If healed, we will begin to see Kap explode on the field with the full mobility and strong, accurate passing we are used to.