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Film Room: Kaepernick and Newton

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Extremely fine-grained and well-informed analysis of Colin Kaepernick vs Cam Newton on the field.

Has Kaepernick regressed after last season? Or is he being held back by his teammates this year?

The key lies in Dilfer's analysis. While Dilfer accurately pointed out that Kaepernick is "remedial" after he makes his first read, that's not something that began this year. The 49ers' passing attack primarily focused on just the first read in 2012. However, with Crabtree and an outstanding running game, it was much easier for Kaepernick to find those first reads.

That doesn't mean he wasn't making very accurate, impressive passes, but it did mean he rarely had to decipher defenses or hold onto the ball while reading through progressions from the pocket.

Kaepernick wasn't being asked to do as much mentally last year as a Cam Newton, Andrew Luck or even Russell Wilson. With a lesser supporting cast this season, he needs to do these things but he simply hasn't developed to that point as a passer yet.

That doesn't mean that he won't ever reach his potential and become an all-around dominant player. There are a few very important aspects of his game that are holding him back. If these are corrected, he would dramatically improve his production on the field regardless of who his teammates are.

On Sunday against the Saints, Kaepernick had 33 qualifying plays that showed off his progression. On 28 of those he appeared to throw to his first read, with the other five going to his second read. During his best game of the season, Week 1 against the Packers, he had 40 qualifying plays and threw to his first read 33 times. When Kaepernick's first read isn't there, he often looks to run too quickly. He left the pocket too early and neglected open receivers 11 times against the Saints and Packers.

Ideally, Kaepernick wouldn't have these issues in his third season, but because of how long he spent on the sidelines and because he was considered a raw talent coming out of college he is still developing. Nobody should be worried about his long-term outlook based on his low production this season. What is worrisome for 49ers fans is the cautiousness that Kaepernick is playing with.

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