According to Adam Schefter, San Francisco 49ers‘ quarterback Alex Smith has passed all concussion tests this week and is on schedule to start against the Chicago Bears on Monday night. Even though Smith is looking like he will start the game, after Colin Kaepernick filled in during much of last week’s game against the St. Louis Rams, the 49ers will be tempted to make greater use of Kaepernick after his impressive outing against the Rams. Kaepernick finished the game against the Rams with 11 completions on 17 attempts for 117 yards and eight attempts for 66 yards and a touchdown. He did have two fumbles as he ran the full offense.
With Smith under center, Kaepernick can return to the role he has featured in so well during the rest of this season. After Ronnie Brown initially brought it back, and Tim Tebow made it famous across the nation, the 49ers brought in their own version of the wildcat (or option offense to use the accurate term) this season. Kaepernick has been the key to the offense with big games against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills already under his belt.
Now that the 49ers’ limited offense is going up against arguably the best defense in the NFL, the team needs a spark to gain an advantage. That spark should come in the form of the previously unused 49ers’ rookies. Running back LaMichael James and wide receiver AJ Jenkins were taken in the first and second round of this year’s draft, but neither player has been active on any game-day so far this season. James and Jenkins are exciting, but raw talents who proved to be game changers in college. More importantly, they are perfect fits to expand on the 49ers’ option attack.
Because the Miami Dolphins‘ Brown was not an actual quarterback, the Dolphins were limited passing out of their wildcat formation. Even though Tebow’s status as a quarterback meant that the Denver Broncos didn’t actually run a real wildcat, their approach was most similar to the 49ers’ attempts this year. Both teams had a power, but not exceptionally explosive backfield, Willis McGahee and Frank Gore/Kendall Hunter. The Broncos also used Eddie Royal as a receiving/running option to motion in and out of the backfield, while the 49ers have always had that option with Delanie Walker. However, neither team has had the explosion that the 49ers’ rookies could potentially add to the formation.
Kaepernick already has more home-run-hitting ability than Tebow, while he can obviously throw the ball much more consistently than Brown(and Tebow). When you put him in the backfield with James, the potential for big plays would only multiple. James made a metaphorical living in a spread offense in college at Oregon. Presuming that speed can translate to the NFL, he could do the same in spurts for the 49ers. If Jenkins was brought in to play the role Royal played in Denver, but with greater agility and speed, then the 49ers would have a triple option attack behind the line of scrimmage who could each excel in space. Even though Gore, Hunter and Walker may all be better players than the rookies at this point in their respective careers, in these situations the rookies would surpass them. Throw in the potential for Randy Moss and Mario Manningham to stretch the field and the 49ers’ option attack is suddenly flooded with potential playmakers.
The Bears have a veteran defense who will prepare for everything that the 49ers have put on tape this year already. With a suspect starter under center, Jim Harbaugh will already be tempted to use more of Kaepernick. With even more potential firepower that can catch the Bears’ defense by surprise, it makes his temptation easier to fulfill.
A defensive stranglehold such as the Bears-49ers matchup promises to be is often decided by just one score. One explosive play from Kaepernick, James or Jenkins, could prove to be the difference on the day.
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