Thursday, November 29, 2012

It's Official: Kaepernick In, Smith Out

Well, there was certainly enough media coverage on the subject, and Jim Harbough did his best at drawing out the drama as much as possible, but on Wednesday, we finally got the answer as to who the 49ers starting QB will be moving forward.

To nobodies surprise, Colin Kaepernick's two impressive victories over Chicago and New Orleans, coupled with his huge potential, has pushed himself ahead of Alex Smith as the 49ers starting QB. He made the decision pretty easy for Harbough with the way he's played ever since relieving a concussed Smith 3 weeks back. He's shown his ability to make plays with the football all season long on the ground, but he finally got his chance to stretch that arm out and he's shown exactly why the 49ers were so eager to trade up in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft in order to secure the Nevada alum. There's just such a big difference in the way Kaepernick and Smith each approach the game, and it's obvious already to me. Smith plays the game much more conservatively. He'll throw the ball away or check down rather than take that chance down field. Kaepernick will run away from defenders until he finds an open wideout or a running lane for himself and rarely wastes a down. Kaepernick looks for the big play when Smith is basically trying not to fail. For such little experience, Kaepernick already has a confidence level that appears to have exceeded Smith's. But when it all came down to it, Kaep got the job cause he's deadly accurate, has a rifle arm and is one of the top running QB's in the NFL. He's just better than Alex Smith, simple as that.

Unfortunately for the 49ers, they got some bad news coming out of the New Orleans game, as Kendal Hunter suffered an ankle injury that will end his 2012 season. Frank Gore's backup was having a career year, and was featured very largely in the 49ers offense, so it is a big hit to the club. This is another area where it helps to have Kaepernick out there, cause he you can design running plays for him so Gore isn't left with all the load. Gore's had a big season this year as Harbough has done a good job to not overuse him, so even with Kaep out there, the 49ers need another back to step up and take some of the duties Hunter filled. We've seen Brandon Jacobs make his debut with the 49ers, and he could be a guy that see's his carry numbers sky rocket, but the guy I'd like to see get some touches is 2nd round draftee LaMichael James. The rookie has yet to see any action this season, but could be used in the same change-of-pace way Hunter was being used. Jacobs is more of a between-the-tackles short yardage guy and the Niners already have that covered with Gore. What the Niners need is that explosiveness out of the backfield when Gore's getting a breather and I just think James has the best shot at being that guy. Not to mention, he's an ideal 3rd down back with his receiving abilities.

I couldn't go without mentioning the NaVorro Bowman contract extension. There hasn't been a bigger component to the 49ers defense the last year and a half than Bowman, including Patrick Willis, and he's really rounded into one of the top inside linebackers in the NFL. Willis and Bowman make the best middle-duo in the NFL, plus with Aldon Smith becoming a sack monster and Ahmad Brooks' all-around game growing, I think it's safe to say the 49ers have the best linebacking corps in all the NFL and none of them will be going anywhere anytime soon.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

49ers Leaning Towards Kaepernick

If you live around the Bay Area, or anywhere in the US for that matter, and follow daily sports talk, you've probably heard the rumblings coming out of San Francisco about "QB controversy" and "Smith or Kaepernick". After Sunday's game with New Orleans, we should all have our answer.

First off, Alex Smith has got to be thinking to himself, "what in the world, do I need to do to get this city behind me?" He helped take them from irrelevance to the door-step of the Super Bowl in 2011 with a career year, now, on pace for another career campaign, he appears to have become 2nd fiddle to Colin Kaepernick. After all, Smith was coming off a 3-TD performance and was playing well before being knocked out by St. Louis in weeks 8 and 10. He also is carrying a surprising 104 QB rating and a 13/5 TD to INT ratio. But just like that, he goes down vs. the Rams with a concussion, and it really opened the door for a guy the 49ers have been showcasing all year long in different packages. I think the 49ers really like Smith as a game manager, and a guy who can make the plays you ask him to, but he's not a guy who's really going to go above and beyond like a RGIII or a Peyton Manning. Not saying Kaep will, but he's shown glimpses of being able to do some pretty terrific things with the football. This is why so many people have been asking for a change atop the QB depth chart in San Francisco. Not cause Smith wasn't doing the job, but because people believe Kaepernick can be something special.

So, in steps Kaepernick, who is lined up for his second career start Sunday vs. the surging New Orleans Saints, who have been on a tear since their ugly start to the season. This is the game that should really determine where the Niners go with their QB rotation from here on out though, as Smith is likely going to be cleared, but will not start and will be relegated to back-up or emergency number 3 duties. This is really the showcase for Kaep too. I mean, he looked great vs. Chicago last week, throwing for 243 yards and a couple of scores with a 70% completion rating and a 133 QB rate. Oh yeah, did I mention he did it vs. a daunting Chicago D that typically just terrorizes young QB's. He showed that big arm and athleticism, but what really makes the difference for me, he knows when to pull the ball in and run out of trouble. Too often, Alex sticks in the pocket waiting for something to happen and gets nailed, or gets rid of the ball too early to avoid pressure and misses a guy he couldn't get around to finding. Kaep has the ability to run away from that and buy more time for receivers. Much quicker in and out of the pocket and he's showing he's already got some veteran savvy to him with his smart choices out there on the field. This kid isn't a game manager, he's a game changer.

In short, at least in my opinion, ff Kaep can reel off two victories in a row over the Bears and Saints, Harbough isn't going to sit him back down. I just don't see that happening. On the other hand, if he comes out flat, makes "rookie mistakes" and doesn't get the 49ers off to a good start, then we could see 'ole Alex back there before long. This is the game that should determine, at least for the rest of 2012, who's behind center for the San Francisco 49ers, and I can't wait!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bay Area Sports Notes

There's been a lot going on around the Bay Area Pro Sports scene the last week, and we figured we do sort of a bullet point on each team to catch up.

Giants: Obviously, we've posted here since the Giants won the Series in Detroit last month, but that hasn't stopped them from jumping right into the fire in terms of putting next years team together. They announced last week that they will tender Hunter Pence a contract for 2013, his final year under team control, and they just signed Jeremy Affeldt to a new 3-year, $18 million deal. They're also discussing a deal with Marco Scutaro and have optimism on that front. They still have big decisions regarding Angel Pagan, Brian Wilson and the infamous Melky Cabrera.

A's: There's really nothing big to report here. I doubt the A's will be much of a player in free agency, besides attempting to bring back Grant Balfour. They already severed ties with Stephen Drew, and probably won't be able to compete to keep Brandon McCarthy in town. They'll once again rely on upcoming talent and maybe a few mid-low level free agent signings they hope they strike gold on (a la Johnny Gomes in '12). Then again, after the season they just had, Beane could surprise us and go make a splash this winter. We'll certainly be keeping tabs on them in the upcoming months.

49ers: Well, we've been covering mostly 49ers news here for the better part of the last two months, but there have been some new developments over the last week-plus. Mainly the pitiful meaningless game we all saw them play vs. St. Louis this last weekend. For some reason, David Akers can't hit the broad side of a barn all of the sudden, and Alex Smith's health is now in question after suffering a concussion early on in the game. That brings up point number two, which we'll discuss more in the coming weeks. It looks like Colin Kaepernick will get the nod this Sunday, and if he puts up big numbers, do the 49ers stick with him even when Smith is healthy enough to go? We know what Smith can do, but Kaep has shown glimpses of having both Andrew Luck and RGIII skill sets. He's still a little raw on decision making, but pretty impressive overall.

Raiders: Well, like with their fellow Oakland counterparts, there's not much new to report here other than the Raiders suffering through another sub-par season. They've had their moments in some games when Carson Palmer has carried the team, but DMC has been a major dissapointment in his first year as full-time back, and that defense is still having trouble stopping anyone. On the bright side, Brandon Myers looks legit at tight end, and Heyward-Bay and Moore look to be rounding into form at wideout.

Warriors: Last, but certainly not least are the Golden State Warriors. The 'Dubs have had an up and down first two weeks to 2012-13, and a big part of what happens next lies in the health of Andrew Bogut. The big man has been sit down for the next week-plus as he tries to regain strength in that repaired ankle of his. If it takes a week, or three, the W's need to be patient with him. As long as he's healthy and able to play 30 minutes by mid-December, the Dubs should be fine. We've seen how good they can be with a injured Bogut, so imagine what they can do with a healthy one. On the positive, Steph Curry looks to be in great shape and showing no ill-effects with his ankle problems... Finally, Harrison Barnes has been a little slow to come along here early on. Hopefully he steps up as the W's need him more than ever without Brandon Rush.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Giants Bring Another Tittle to Bay Area

Since we haven't talked much Giants baseball here in the last few weeks, and the fact that the team just brought another tittle to the Bay Area, I thought I'd post a blurb from a partner site over @ The Giants Baseball Blog...

Although Giants fans all over the world get to relish in this World Series Championship all winter long, it's time for the Giants management to start shifting their focus towards 2013.

Now, before I start putting this season in the rear view mirror, I just wanted to talk a little bit more about this World Series victory and the incredible parade we all got on Wednesday. Again, we'll be doing season reviews in the coming month, rating how each unit of the team did this year, from starting pitching to the bench guys and everyone in between. There just isn't a lot to be said about the 2012 Giants that hasn't been eluded to a number of times. I would be lying if I told you I had the World Series on my mind after this team lost it's star closer and then their top hitter midway through the season while also getting pedestrian numbers out of the guy they were hoping would help carry the offense in Hunter Pence. But that's further testament to how well this team played as a group and how each player picked up the other guy when they had to. Pence's presence showed up more than just in the box score. Blanco made Melky an afterthought in October and we all know the job Romo did....

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