49ers

Cosell: 49ers should not go into 2017 with Kaepernick as clear-cut starter

Cosell: 49ers should not go into 2017 with Kaepernick as clear-cut starter

Against the Dolphins on Sunday, Colin Kaepernick completed 29 of 46 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns, while throwing one interception.

He also racked up 113 yards on the ground.

Although Kaepernick has found success in Chip Kelly's system, Greg Cosell is not convinced he is the long-term answer for the 49ers.

"I don't think you can go into next season with Colin Kaepernick as your clear starter and say, 'He's our guy, we're ready to go,'" Cosell said on KNBR 680 on Wednesday morning. "Now again, there are five more games to play. I've been very realistic and objective in evaluating him just because you had to see him, you had to give him a chance to work through this offense.

[RELATED: Kaepernick explains why he's running better than ever under Kelly]

"I think Chip has done a really good job overall with defining throws for him -- the intitial read -- so the ball can come out. He still, obviously, has a long way to go when that initial read is not there. That's not a strength of his game. He's not a progression reader. It's a quick-timing offense.

"And then they have to decide how they feel about the rushing yardage ... that offense almost demands that the quarterback be a significant running threat. How much can a quarterback run in the National Football League, both by design and improvisation? That's a question that most people I think come down on the side of, 'He can't do it too much.'"

What does Cosell think when he sees Kaepernick perform the way he did in Miami?

"More than likely, history in the NFL, suggests that you can't survive that way and live in that world on a weekly basis," Cosell said. "He has certain things he can do and I think that Chip has accentuated that with the style of offense ... 

"The longer he's in the pocket, the less effective he is, the less he sees. He has very poor footwork and balance. Can you camoflauge those things and compensate for those things? You can, up until a certain point. He's still a work in progress and he has a certain skill set that at times shows spectacularly and gets people excited."

Kaepernick, who requested permission to seek a trade in the offseason, can opt out of his contract after this season. If Kaepernick does not opt out, the 49ers would have to decide whether to retain him at his scheduled pay of $14.9 million for the 2017 season.

"He's not a precise, ball-placement thrower in the short and intermediate passing game, which is the foundation of the Chip Kelly offense, so that's a concern as you go forward," Cosell added. "Kaepernick in many ways is a highlight quarterback because the runs get you excited.

"How important are the runs in the context of being a consistent week-to-week quarterback who can make throws when needed?"
 

Remaining healthy and productive is a stretch for 49ers tight end Kittle

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AP

Remaining healthy and productive is a stretch for 49ers tight end Kittle

Coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch spoke separately in February about the need for 49ers tight end George Kittle to find a way to remain healthy.

It’s a reasonable concern. After all, Kittle sustained a hamstring injury on the third day of training camp. He was treated for injuries to his hip, chest, elbow, back, leg and ankle during the season.

Through it all, Kittle missed just one game due to an ankle injury and came through with an impressive rookie season after being chosen in the fifth round of last year’s draft from Iowa.

Kittle ranked second in the NFL among rookies in receiving yards last season. His 43 catches for 515 yards were the most by any rookie NFL tight end drafted after the fourth round.

The future is bright. But – as Shanahan and Lynch were pick to point out at the NFL scouting combine – Kittle must find a way to avoid injuries. Kittle addressed his offseason training regimen during the 49ers Insider Podcast.

“I was banged up a little bit,” Kittle said. “I did a whole offseason of just preparing my body -- a lot of band work -- to get my body used to hard hits and stuff like that. I did as much stretching as I could because the more flexible you are, the less likely you are to pull something.”

Kittle said no player can ever eliminate the possibility of injuries, but he took steps he believes will give him a better chance to remain able to perform.

“I think you can protect against some injuries,” Kittle said. “You can’t protect against, you’re running an outside zone and a guy falls down behind you onto your ankle or something. You can’t control stuff like that.

“I think a lot of it is luck of the draw, in my opinion. But there are things you can do to help yourself. If a stiff guy gets hit from behind, his likelihood of getting hurt is probably higher than a guy who’s super-limber.”

As a tight end, Kittle has to balance building up the weight and strength required to block defensive ends, while also remaining light enough to run pass patterns against defensive backs.

Kittle is currently in the same situation as quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and C.J. Beathard, as each is going through his first full offseason program with the 49ers in Santa Clara.

“They’re both fantastic quarterbacks,” Kittle said.

Beathard, a college teammate of Kittle, started five games last season.

“He proved his toughness, taking hits, getting up, making plays,” Kittle said of Beathard.

In the final five games with Garoppolo at quarterback, Kittle caught 15 passes for 224 yards. He caught four passes for 100 yards in the season finale against the Los Angeles Rams to become the first 49ers rookie tight end since Monty Stickles in 1960 to have 100 yards receiving in a game.

Kittle praised Garoppolo for his leadership and his uncanny ability to locate the open man.

“It’s fun because you know you’re going to get the ball,” Kittle said. “He sees the whole field at all times.”

Garoppolo getting to know new 49ers teammates without coaches around

Garoppolo getting to know new 49ers teammates without coaches around

Although the first two weeks of the NFL offseason program are limited to strength and conditioning training, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has already gotten an opportunity to play with a couple of his new toys.

Garoppolo has taken part in throwing sessions during the week at the team’s facility, where coaches are not allowed on the field with the players until next week. On the weekends, he has organized additional activities with his teammates at a park in the South Bay.

“We had our first one this weekend,” Garoppolo said on Monday at Levi’s Stadium after another day of workouts. “It’s just something that I like to do. It kinds of gets us away from the coaches and everything, and allows me to talk to the receivers about specific things, or the tight ends or running backs.

“We try to get everyone out there that we can. I understand people have things that they have to get to. But we had a great showing this Saturday. It was good. Just to be on the same page with those guys, talking through route concepts and how they see it versus how I see it. It just gets us on the same page.”

Among the players who have taken part in the sessions are wide receiver Pierre Garçon and running back Jerick McKinnon, likely to be among the team’s top pass-catchers this season.

Garoppolo’s five starts with the 49ers came after Garçon was sidelined with a neck injury after eight games. Garçon was on pace for a 1,000-yard season before going on injured reserve. The 49ers targeted McKinnon as an upgrade over Carlos Hyde due to his playmaking ability, including catching passes out of the backfield.

McKinnon and center Weston Richburg were players the 49ers front office heavily pursued and signed on the first day of free agency. They were the first major pieces the 49ers added after signing Garoppolo to a five-year, $137.5 million contract in February.

“Those are good guys,” Garoppolo said. “They fit what we’re trying to do here and they work hard, so when you bring that to the table, it’s always good.”

Garoppolo is continuing in his first offseason with the 49ers something he said he began during his days at Rolling Meadows High School in a northwest suburb of Chicago.

”It’s one of those things, when the coaches aren’t there you kind of see a different side of guys,” Garoppolo said. “They open up a little bit or tell you how they see a concept compared to how it is written in the book. Just a little bit at a time for us to talk through things, I guess.”