There has been plenty of chatter about Colin Kaepernick's passing performance against the Arizona Cardinals. Considering the struggles, it will not end anytime soon. We'll have more breakdown of his performance, but for now, I wanted to present two people's thoughts on the topic. The day after the game, former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer chatted with 95.7 The Game, and Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu was on Pro Football Talk Live.
Mathieu had this to say about Kap's quarterbacking skills:
"The world knows what type of quarterback Colin Kaepernick is," Mathieu said. "Obviously, he's a dual threat. He can beat you in the passing game if you let him, but most of the time a lot of their pass concepts are designed for him to run to his right, to our left, to make it an easier read and to make it an easier throw because you think about a lot of their passing game, a lot of those are roll out passes. So you basically cut the field in half and it makes it easier for the quarterback to read, but it also makes it easier for the defense to kind of anticipate where the ball is about to go."
Previously, Tony Jefferson said that Kap was a guy who would look to run on third down if the primary option was not open. He also said the Cardinals wanted to force Kap to throw outside the numbers, as that was not a strength. We saw him struggle there, and you can view some preliminary film breakdown from Greg Cosell. I'm going to talk to David Neumann about some things to potentially focus in on with a film breakdown this week. We'll see what we can come up with.
And finally, here is Trent Dilfer's transcript. He addresses the idea of defensive players commenting on a player's weaknesses, and provides some of his own thoughts about Kap's performance. He acknowledges not knowing for sure what the problem was, and posits some guesses as to what was happening. We have some conflicting information between everybody. Mathieu is no the field and watching the 49ers game tape in preparation. Dilfer has extensive QB experience, but can also be a bit of a shill when it comes to talking up quarterbacks. But I figured it was worth providing what both guys had to say.
On what went wrong in Week 3:
Well, I'll start by saying that when I went into this, I said I was not going to be afraid of saying, "I don't know" when I don't know. There's nothing worse than analysts comes on and makes some stuff up because he doesn't know, but he's trying to save face. I really don't know. And I watched every snap, that's not true, I missed a little bit of the front part of the third quarter.
My guess, and this is truly a guess, is that Arizona played a little bit differently in the back half than he expected. Because the two pick-sixes to start the game, he starts the play with his eyes left, his body positioned left, wants to throw the ball left, he's not clear with the look, comes back right and throws it late. And obviously we all know the results. But even as the game went on, the throws were very tentative. The third interception to Vernon on man-to-man coverage on a deep over route, or corner route, and that's a ball that if you throw decisively, if you put some air on it, it's either going to Vernon or it's landing out of bounds. He kinda pulls back on it, and the ball goes soft and inside and short, and gets picked. It just seemed like his brain was not processing the pictures as clearly as they had the first two weeks.
That would be my guess, living it before, where you're just tentative, you make uncharacteristic mistakes, because you're just not comfortable with what you're seeing. And that's the only thing I have. It's a challenge now, because now the narrative goes back to the offseason. And I think that's a scary thing here. I think the Niners, offensively at least, had kind of quieted the offseason negativity, and the narrative that was so toxic, that was going on. You have one performance like this, horrific one, and all of a sudden, everybody gets back on a real negative conversation about you and about your offense. And it takes a real resiliency, a lot of grit as a unit to fight through that.
On if Cardinals baited him on the picks (mentioned Tony Jefferson comments):
No, that's, defenders say a lot of things out of bravado. I've heard defenders say that about Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. A lot of times defensive players when given a microphone in their mouth will say a lot of things out of bravado. And that's just not true. Both those interceptions were his third receiver in a progression. He was late getting to them, because he was confused on his initial look. Their truth, what they see in their film study, I'm the one who started that narrative two years ago, when I was critical of Kap's development. I said he's still a pick-and-stick guy, when his primary isn't there, he tends to escape to his left. All the things that have kind of become the conversation around Kap, but what I've tried to tell people is he's addressed those.
Now yesterday wasn't the same thing that's got him in trouble in the past. Yesterday, he was, my guess, and I led by saying this is my guess based on watching the game, it seemed like his eyes weren't seeing the pictures clearly. Both those interceptions to start the game were second or third receivers, back to the right side after he started off looking left. Defenders were not driving on the first look, or baiting the first look. They were playing defense, and they were mixing up the secondary shells so he couldn't play fast. And what he's done the first two weeks is he's had clean, defined looks, and he's played fast. When you play fast mentally and physically, you're more decisive. And yesterday he played very slow mentally, and obviously was very indecisive with his throws.
On if this is a blueprint to beating Kaepernick:
If they have those packages in place. I mean Arizona does a great job with their pressure packages, and changing those back in. Most teams when they pressure, you have one, two, three different back-end shells they use in pressure. So, if you identify the pressure, you handle it at the line of scrimmage, you know that you're getting one of a few things in the secondary. Arizona's pretty complex with what they do in the secondary with their pressures. They bring a lot of different ones in their front seven, and they mix up the look, so they constantly keep you off balance. They're gonna make other quarterbacks look silly this year, too. Kap's not going to be the only one.
I think what teams will try to do, and Minnesota tried in Week 1 and weren't highly successful with it, and what Pittsburgh did in Week 2 even though they had a big lead, and that's force Kap to play traditional quarterback within the pocket. And they say, when they break down those two interceptions specifically, they're going to say, "Listen, he was in the pocket, he started left, he went right, don't be late and he'll be lazy if we're able to take away the primary look."
So, teams will continue to try to do that, and I think the challenge is, one for Geep Chryst to get Kap in a rhythm early, like he did against Minnesota with some of the what I call "freebie plays", the bootlegs, the nakeds, the quick screens, the quick game, kind of the target throws in front of him. And then on third down, Kap continues like most quarterbacks outside the great ones, need to continue to progress, understanding what defenses are doing to him on third down, and getting completions and getting the ball out of his hand sooner.