Share this article

print logo

Bills focused on Kaepernick's running, not kneeling

What Colin Kaepernick does before Sunday's kickoff at New Era Field isn't of great interest to the members of the Buffalo Bills' defense.

To a man, they say they respect his right to protest during the national anthem, even if they all don't necessarily share his point of view. But their concern isn't with the San Francisco 49ers' quarterback kneeling on the sidelines before the game. It's what he does when he's on his feet and on the field.

And make no mistake, that is the primary focus of the Bills' defenders.

"His legs are his biggest threat," outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. "His ability to extend drives. Obviously, you can see what Tyrod is able to do for us. You have him in a third-and-long situation and get after him, everybody's covered, and he finds a way out of it and extends a drive and they end up scoring.

"So that's something that we really want to be able to focus on this week is putting him in those situations, but then capitalize and not allow him to get outside of the pocket and be able to find somebody deep down the field after a broken coverage just because of extended time. That's the biggest thing -- not allowing him to get that confidence."

In an unusual move, first-year 49ers coach Chip Kelly decided Tuesday to announce that Kaepernick would make his first start of the season in place of Blaine Gabbert, who has struggled badly through a four-game losing streak. Kelly could very well have waited to reveal the decision on Sunday in order to keep the Bills guessing about which quarterback they would face.

Now, they can be more specific in their preparation ... or at least as specific as an opponent can be against a quarterback playing in his first regular-season game in an offense unlike any he has played since entering the NFL.

Gabbert is also a good runner, but Kaepernick is better. And, as he proved in leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl after the 2012 season, he can be as dynamic as any quarterback in the NFL.

The problem is, in recent years, Kaepernick hasn't been all that dynamic. Still, the Bills' coaches and players are studying all of the video they can on him, mostly from this year's preseason but also from past seasons. They've also spent time watching Gabbert to get a feel for how Kelly, who had previously coached the Philadelphia Eagles, is implementing the full extent of his offense in San Francisco.

"It definitely helps us a lot, because now we know who their quarterback's going to be," safety Aaron Williams said. "We had known that it was a discussion from the get-go of which quarterback they wanted. For us, we had to look at both Blaine and Kaepernick, but now that we know, it helps us a lot more."

"They have a lot of great defensive players, a lot of talent on that side of the ball, a lot of people that can make plays," Kaepernick said during a conference call with media covering the Bills. "They also have a defensive scheme that is multiple and tries to confuse the offense. So we have to be prepared for what they're doing and the different looks they can give us, and make sure we're ready to go."

Generally speaking, the Bills' emphasis will be on keeping Kaepernick in the pocket, because they know how much more dangerous he becomes, as a runner and thrower, when he's on the move.

But in an effort to keep him under control, the Bills' defense understands that it's every bit as important to prevent running back Carlos Hyde from having a big rushing day. The Bills want to do what opponents do against Tyrod Taylor: challenge him to beat them from the pocket.

"We have to be able to stop (Kaepernick's) versatility and make him one-dimensional," said safety Duke Williams, who was the quarterback's teammate at Nevada. "We have to be able to win on first down. Winning on first down is going to be played in our hands, because that's when we're able to run different schemes in the back end and create traps in coverage for him to throw it to us.

"That's going to be real big, stopping Hyde and stopping him from killing us in the run game."

Defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman, whose pick-six was the decisive play in the Bills' victory against the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday, could see some obvious reasons the Niners made the switch at quarterback. He noticed that Gabbert was having problems with "a few route concepts, some plays that could have been easily completed but he has a hard time throwing certain routes."

Despite the limited amount of available video of Kaepernick running Kelly's scheme, the Bills know this much about his tendencies: As a runner, he likes to get to the perimeter, and as a passer, he doesn't do a whole lot of scanning of the secondary.

"He's like a one-read-type guy and if he doesn't like it, he's going to scramble around and he's going to try to gain three or four yards with his feet," Robey-Coleman said.

The Bills intend to stay true to their defensive philosophy of playing man-to-man coverage and using a variety of pressure packages.

"I don't know what their adjustment's going to be, but our plan is we're just going to get in their face and really challenge those guys and really challenge their run game," Robey-Coleman said. "We're doing pretty good against the run right now, but Sunday is going to really test us. Coach Rex (Ryan) has already told the corners it's going to be a big week for us in coverage and the secondary's either going to make or break the game plan. So we've got to come out with our heads on right and making sure we're protecting the back end."

There are no comments - be the first to comment