San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick is considered as dual-threat quarterback with a strong arm capable of effortlessly throwing deep passes and with ability to avoid pressure and run with the ball on a scramble or on a designed run play. He’s proven that many times last season.
This is the first, out of many posts that I plan to write about Colin Kaepernick who took over at quarterback position after Alex Smith’s concussion in Week 10 of the 2012 regular season. Based on official play-by-play data from NFL.com and based on my own video analysis I charted each Kaepernick’s drive, starting with second quarter of Week 10 game vs St. Louis Rams. Kaepernick did play some snaps earlier on in the season, but I’ve decided to chart only games in which he’s thrown at least 10 passes. The data I’ve collected will serve me as a basis for comparison of his performance in upcoming 2013 NFL season. Hopefully, the quarterback of the 49ers will be fortunate enough to avoid any major injuries and will develop into an even better player compared to the 2012 season. Later on, I’ll post a similar piece in which I’ll look into his 2012 NFL playoff stats and combine them with regular season. But first, here are the stats I’ve come up with for the regular season.
As I’ve already mentioned, the main purpose of doing this isn’t to compare the quarterback with the rest of the NFL, but to find out if he can improve on his game in 2013. I’ll try to evaluate his performance on a weekly basis with stats which I’ll present in this post.
I’ll start with some basic drive stats for 2012 San Francisco 49ers when Colin Kaepernick was at quarterback. Keep in mind that all the stats will be from 2012 Week 10 to Week 17 only.
Kaepernick led the 49ers on 88 drives and they’ve scored 185 points on offense. That’s 2.10 points per drive, which was, for example, slightly less than Alex Smith-led 49ers (2.14). Here’s an image with overall drive stats and drive results. TO is a number of turnovers committed only by quarterback. (click on the image to enlarge)
Offensive formation isn’t something that a player can improve on, but I’ll add this set of data just to see from which formations the 49ers operated the most on offense in 2012. I’ll do the same each week for 2013 season.
In 88 drives the 49ers had 459 plays on offense (excluded are penalty plays for no play and FG attempts). I simplified things and grouped formations into four groups (under center, shotgun, pistol and victory formation).
On majority of plays (57.3%) Kaepernick operated under the center with one, two or on rare occasions, three backs in the backfield, only once he was under center with empty backfield. The second most used formation was the shotgun (31.8%). Its hybrid, pistol formation was used 9.8 percent of the total offensive formations, the rest are the plays from victory formation (1.1%). Of course, the percentages of certain formations varied from week to week. For example, in Kaepernick’s first three starts, the 49ers almost didn’t use plays from pistol formation. They unleashed the pistol in Week 14 against Miami Dolphins. The next chart shows weekly percentages of 49ers’ offensive formations (% for victory formation not shown on the chart).
If we exclude five ‘kneel down’ plays from victory formation and six aborted snaps we are left with 448 plays, 245 of those pass plays and 203 were run plays by design. Let’s first dig into 245 pass plays. Kaepernick attempted 209 passes, he completed 131 (62.8%) for 1725 yards, 10 TDs and 3 INTs with 98.7 passer rating. Those are standard passing stats. To that I’ll add yards after catch, 694 of 1725 were yards after the catch (40.2%). Pass attempts simply aren’t the only pass plays. Sack plays are designed as pass plays which break down due to opponents’ pressure. Kaepernick was sacked 14 times for a total loss of 95 yards and a 5.7% sack rate = sacks / (pass att + scrambles + sacks). He also had two sack fumbles, both times recovered by his teammates. In standard statistics scrambles are treated like run plays, but those are, just like sacks, designed as pass plays. Kaepernick scrambled 22 times and ran for total of 195 yards or 8.9 yards per scramble. To measure his production out of pass plays I calculated Yards per Pass Play (YPP).
YPP = (Pass Yds + Scramble Yds – Sack Yds) / (Pass Att + Scrambles + Sacks) = 7.4
Another interesting aspect of looking at pass plays is quarterback’s performance when under pressure, how many times he’s been able to attempt a pass under duress and avoid a sack, what was his completion rate under those circumstances, …
Based on my count Kaepernick was under pressure 85 out of 245 total pass plays (34.7%). More stats when under pressure on the next image.
One other important aspect of quarterback performance is how well he plays when facing third down (or sometimes fourth down when in attempt to lead his team from behind late in the game). Third down is the ‘money down’, a pivotal point in offensive drive. A team can either convert the key down and move the chains or concede to the defense and punt the ball away. Here’s how Colin Kaepernick performed on those key downs. I looked at all third and fourth down plays in which Kaepernick dropped back to pass or run with the ball. Turns out he did that on 83 plays (kneel downs excluded). San Francisco earned another set of downs or scored touchdown on 29 out of 83 plays (34.9%).
The next thing I looked into were the incomplete passes. Kaepernick attempted a total of 209 and failed to complete 78 passes, three of those were intercepted. I broke down each of the other 75 incomplete passes. More than 20% of all incompletions were dropped passes.
From Week 10, when Kaepernick took over, the 49ers ran with the ball 203 times and there weren’t that many plays for Colin Kaepernick who ran with the ball on designed plays only 17 times (kneel downs excluded). The rest of the run plays, he either pitched (14) or handed off (172) the ball to his running backs. I already mentioned 22 scrambles when talking about Kaepernick’s passing game. I added scramble plays here to compare those plays with designed run plays. Kaepernick more often scrambled than ran on designed run play.
One last thing that I looked into are the turnovers. They can be huge turning point plays in a game, especially lost fumbles. Opposing defenses intercepted three of total 209 pass attempts, that’s an interception rate of 1.4%. Colin Kaepernick also lost one fumble (aborted snap), the other five fumbled snaps were either recovered by him or his teammates. Fumble recovery isn’t a skill, there is a lot of luck involved in it, so based on that, in 2012 Kaepernick can be considered as very lucky. A total of four turnovers on Kaepernick’s 273 offensive plays (fumbled snaps + pass plays + designed run plays – kneel downs) leads to a 1.5% turnover rate.
In the next post I’ll present playoff stats and combine them with regular season data. I’ll use that as a reference when breaking down games in 2013.