SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Tyrann Mathieu had a pretty good handle on former 49ers starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The last time they met, he intercepted Kaepernick twice in Week 3's 47-7 blowout in Glendale, including a pick-six in the first quarter.
So when breaking down his opponent for Sunday, Mathieu noticed some stark differences between Kaepernick and new quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who gets his third start for the 49ers Sunday in Levi's Stadium.
"Not to take anything away from Kaepernick, but it seems like Gabbert, he has a little bit better grip of what’s going on. If he gets in a situation, he knows where the ball needs to go," Mathieu said.
"So he’s a hell of a passer. I think he’s underrated when you talk about how well he can throw the football. And, obviously he had some 40 yards last week against the Seahawks running the ball. So I think he gives them a better option going forward. It seems like the wide receivers are more involved. So it seems like they’re doing all right."
Kaepernick was placed on season-ending injured reserve over the weekend after suffering a torn labrum in his left, non-throwing shoulder. 49ers coach Jim Tomsula said on Wednesday that Kaepernick underwent successful surgery to repair his shoulder in Colorado.
With Kaepernick as the starter, the 49ers had the NFL's worst offense, both in scoring and total yardage.
|49ers QBs||Games (starts)||Comp. %||TD||INT||Yards/Game||Rating|
|Colin Kaepernick||9 (8)||59%||6||5||179.4||78.5|
|Blaine Gabbert||2 (2)||62.7||3||2||224.5||88.9|
After that first meeting in September, Mathieu told PFT Live, "It was real easy for us to anticipate routes and get the breaks on the ball last Sunday,” during his defense's four-interception performance. Mathieu was able to bait Kaepernick into predictable throws, leading to the turnovers.
Wednesday, Mathieu said it won't be as easy with Gabbert under center.
"It seems like he takes care of the football way better. If he gets in a situation where he feels pressure, he’s not just going to give the defense an opportunity to make a play. They run a lot of boots. A lot of different things with him to get him on the edge. Like I said, it seems like he can run the football pretty well from the times I’ve seen him run it. He has a pretty nice arm as well," Mathieu said.
"We just knew Kaepernick’s tendencies. We knew what he liked to do. We knew which way he liked to roll out. We knew what side of the field he liked to read to. And you don’t pick up those same things from Gabbert. Like I said, he’s better in the pocket. He has a better feel for coverages. It seems like he can get to the line, see a coverage and then go to a different play. Or see a coverage and not throw the ball. You can see Gabbert’s maturity and obviously, the different things that he does well that, let’s say, Kaepernick doesn’t do well."
Mathieu has three interceptions on the year on Arizona's defense that ranks third in yardage and 13th in scoring. Their 14 interceptions are the second-most in the league, one behind the Carolina Panthers.
Chris Biderman is the Editor-in-Chief of Niners Digest and covers the 49ers from their headquarters in Santa Clara. Chris has been writing about the team since the spring of 2013. The Ohio State alum received his Journalism degree in 2011 and has been working in sports media since 2008. Chris, a Santa Rosa, Calif. native, is also a contributor to the Associated Press covering sports throughout the Bay Area. You can follow Chris on Twitter here.
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