In my previous post I broke down Kaepernick's pass attempts with Anquan Boldin as his target. The 49ers sent sixth round draft pick to get Boldin from Baltimore Ravens and the idea behind the acquisition was to use Boldin opposite of Crabtree outside, with Vernon Davis working the middle of the field. The trade ended up being even more valuable when Michael Crabtree tore his Achilles tendon and was lost for the most part of 2013 regular season. Boldin of course is not among the fastest of wide receivers in the NFL and the 49ers never expected him to be deep-threat wide receiver. Boldin, considered as one of the most physical players in the league, more frequently caught short passes as seen on passing charts included in my first post and was reliable target for Colin Kaepernick when 49ers needed to convert third downs.
Vernon Davis was just as valuable as Boldin in 2013 for San Francisco 49ers. With 16.3 yards per reception, Davis matched career-high mark set in 2010. Davis completely missed Week 2 game against the Colts and had to leave the field in Week 10 against the Panthers with concussion middle through the second quarter—the 49ers ended up losing both games.
Kaepernick targeted Davis 84 times during 14 and a half regular season games and completed 52 passes for 850 yards with 13 touchdowns, two interceptions and an incredible 125.5 passer rating. Davis gained 277 yards after the catch, that's 32.6% of the total passing yards. I've added notes to go along with passing chart already in the Boldin post, but before we look at Kaepernick-Davis chart I'll add the notes again here to make it easier for readers to interpret the chart.
- gold circles indicating complete passes are placed at the spot of the reception at the distance from the line of scrimmage, the same goes for red circles indicating touchdowns
- black circles which indicate incomplete passes are placed at the location of the intended receiver (batted down/deflected passes included), at the spot where the ball crossed the sideline in case of intentional throw-aways or at the spot on the sideline where the receiver caught the ball out-of-bounds
- white circles which represent interceptions are placed at the spot of the intended receiver
- for passes thrown past the goal line, I placed the circles at the distance to the goal line
To no surprise, this chart looks different compared to Boldin chart. Kaepernick did throw a fair amount of short passes within 10 yards from the line of scrimmage (43), which is 51.2% of all passes thrown to Davis. Still, the rate doesn't come close to 63.1% of short passes which targeted Boldin. Between the numbers was the area of the field where Kaepernick most frequently tried to hit Davis. Almost half of pass attempts were to the middle (46.4%) with a little bit of a void in the middle of 21- to 30-yard range. Kaepernick had great success throwing deep, especially throwing deep over the middle. When he targeted Davis with 30+ yard passes he completed 4 of 7 attempts with three touchdown passes, including 52-yard bomb in the game against the Buccaneers.
Overall, Kaepernick completed 61.9% of passes thrown to Vernon Davis and was most effective with pass attempts over the middle with a 74.4 completion percentage. Here's a chart with completion percentages by zone.
It is a bit uncharacteristic, but Kaepernick was actually more effective when he threw passes 31-40 yards past the line of scrimmage than with his passes thrown in the 21- to 30-yard range. With a low number of pass attempts in those areas of the field, things like that are going to happen. Another interesting thing worth noting, Kaepernick had below-average completion percentage throwing to Davis to the right side of the field, but 6 of 13 touchdown passes to Davis were thrown to that side.
Colin Kaepernick had one pass batted down/deflected at the line of scrimmage and had to throw away two passes when the intended receiver was Vernon Davis. Davis dropped four passes and had 16 passes thrown his way defensed, I marked four of those as forced drops. Davis caught one of the passes thrown his way out-of-bounds. The rest of incompletions were passes out of Davis' reach, four were overthrown, three underthrown and one pass thrown wide which makes it a total of eight passes off-target. The lone pass thrown wide got tipped and intercepted, the other interception falls in "defensed" category and happened on a great defensive play. Here's the structure of all incomplete passes.
There were talks about the lack of timing between Kaepernick and Davis during 2012 regular season. Back then the tight end himself admitted that the chemistry wasn't there yet. Randy Moss, who spent time with the 49ers in 2012 expressed his view before the start of the 2013 season:
From my time there last year, it didn't seem Kaepernick and Vernon Davis had a rapport. They haven't shown that yet.
Already in the 2012 playoffs, the two players showed what kind of connection they can have. They carried on to display it in 2013 regular season in which Davis caught 13 touchdown passes. According to Pro Football Reference, Davis is one of only four tight ends in NFL history with at least 13 touchdown catches in a single season. For now, the speedy tight end remains the lone vertical threat in the 49ers' passing game, mainly attacking the middle of the field. That could change in a hurry, if the 49ers can draft and add to the group of receivers wide receiver with enough speed and with ability to attack the edges.
With my next post I'll present 2013 passing charts for Kaepernick-Crabtree tandem.