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49ers mid-season review: Quarterbacks

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is on pace for career highs in most categories. Will we see him reach those highs, and how will this roller coaster end come January or February?

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The San Francisco 49ers are in the midst of their bye week, returning to action in Week 9 against the St. Louis Rams. We are not exactly halfway through the season, but the timing of the bye is close enough that it makes sense to take a look at where everything stands. We will be going through each position over the next five or six days. I figured today we could start with the position that can frequently lead to chaos in the comments, the quarterback position.

On Sunday, 49ers fans got to see Blaine Gabbert in action for the first time this regular season. An appearance by the backup quarterback usually means either one of three things have happened, two of which are bad. The first is the 49ers are dominating and were able to pull their starters. The second is the 49ers are getting dominated and decided to pull their starters. The third is injury. I'd say "thankfully" it was only the second one.

Starter: Colin Kaepernick
Backups: Blaine Gabbert, Josh Johnson (depending on the day of the week)

For really any purposes, the 49ers quarterback position revolves around Colin Kaepernick. Blaine Gabbert is there as the emergency option, and Josh Johnson is there to handle scout team reps during the week. Other than that, it's all about No. 7.

For each of these posts, I'm going to include a handful of different statistical metrics from Football Outsiders, Advanced Football Analytics, and Pro Football Focus. Generally I will simply list the player's ranking compared to the rest of the league, rather than the specific number. A DYAR of 195 doesn't mean much to a lot of people. But saying he ranks No. 14 among NFL QBs in DYAR gives us a little more context. If you click on each link you can better idea of the various stats mentioned.

Football Outsiders

DYAR: 14 out of 36
DVOA: 17 out of 36
QBR: 14 out of 36

Advanced Football Analytics (Glossary)

WPA: 16 out of 39
EPA: 11 out of 39
AYPA: 19 out of 39

Pro Football Focus

Grade: 0.2 (20 out of 37)
PFF QB rating: 4 out of 27
Accuracy %: 7 out of 27
Deep passing: 10 out of 17
Under pressure Accuracy %: t-4th out of 27

PFF is the only one that does not make all of their content public. Here are definitions for the signature stats:

PFF QB rating: Updated version of QB rating; factors in dropped passes, throw aways, spikes, and yards in the air.
Accuracy %: (Completions + Drops) / (Attempts - Throw Aways - Spikes - Batted Passes - Hit As Thrown)
Deep passing: Passing attempts targeted 20+ yards down the field

The 2014 season has seen a little bit of everything from Colin Kaepernick. He has shown off his cannon arm, he has shown tremendous touch, and he has shown his scrambling ability. On the other hand, he has struggled at times with his touch, seemingly firing off passes a little too hard on shorter attempts. His receivers have their share of drops, but he has also had extended stretches where his passes are off target enough that it is just not possible to catch.

And that sort of sums up the Colin Kaepernick experience to date. There is so much happening that it is a roller coaster of emotions. He fires that pass to Frank Gore, across the field and across his body, and Gore turns it into a touchdown. He drops in an absolutely perfect pass to Anquan Boldin in the back of the end zone, again throwing as he is scrambling to his left. And then we see him fire a pass to Stevie Johnson that is off target and into double coverage, when he had an open man underneath who would have converted the third down.

Colin Kaepernick continues to show progress in areas, but it can a bit herky-jerky at times. Earlier in the season there was discussion about Kap needing to do a better job stepping up in the pocket when pressure comes around the side. Against the Rams, we saw progress in this. In the first half against the Broncos, he was putting the offense on his shoulders as the 49ers were apparently intent on passing their way to victory.

As we've said over and over again, it is going to be a roller coaster with Colin Kaepernick. It can be ulcer-inducing, but his incredibly upside is what keeps us coming back for more. Colin Kaepernick can do things virtually no other quarterback in the NFL can do. The key is creating consistency. This is not a new development. It can be incredibly frustrating when he fires a pass a foot above a wide open Anquan Boldin, or when he fires 15 yards down the field into double coverage, when a little 3-yard dump-off would do the trick. It is possible Kap will never be as consistent as people want him to be.

It can be frustrating at times, but we've seen some of the highs, and those are what makes most of us come back for more. Roller coasters can be nausea-inducing, but people keep riding them for the thrills. The 49ers need more than just thrills to win the Super Bowl, but I believe Kap is showing progress in a lot of different areas. Sometimes it feels like he is taking a step back, but then we see him take three steps forward. It is a long process, but it is a process that has been one of the many reasons the 49ers remain competitive year in and year out.

Through the first seven games, Kap is averaging 245 passing yards, 1.57 touchdowns, 0.7 interceptions, and 37 rushing yards per game. He is on pace for 3,929 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and 594 rushing yards. Will he finish the season at those numbers? Or will we see a slip or an increase?