In the midst of their spirited quarterback competition, Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick spoke with reporters after the first week of training camp.
Here's what we learned from the pair of signal-callers for the San Francisco 49ers.
GABBERT1. Accuracy will be a difference-maker in determining who wins the job
Chip Kelly wants to see "repetitive accuracy" from his quarterbacks. Gabbert agrees.
"I think accuracy is one of the most important things that you look at in a quarterback," the sixth-year pro said. "Ball placement, whether it's an incompletion or completion, good ball placement is key. Run after the catch is a lot bigger, prevents interceptions and just lets our guys make plays after the catch. So when we're watching filming, we kind of look at the ball placement on certain plays."
Gabbert said accuracy will only improve with every rep the passers get in Kelly's system.
"You start to focus on the details, the little things," he said. "Where you can put certain balls versus certain coverages, certain kind of defensive placement. From that standpoint, the more reps we get, you'll see that consist improvement."
2. Reps are reps, and Gabbert is building chemistry whenever he can
Spring practices saw Gabbert work exlcusively with the first-team offense. This was a result of Kaepernick nursing three offseason surgeries. But now that No. 7 is back, the reps have been split 50-50 with the first offense.
So does Gabbert find himself out of rhythm because he doesn't have a stranglehold of the first-team job?
"No," Gabbert responded to the question. "Reps are reps. You learn quickly in the NFL that reps are like pieces of gold. You've got to treat them with a lot of respect and don't take them for granted. Any rep you get at practice is crucial. Getting reps with a bunch of different players, a bunch of different guys from the offensive linemen, the receivers, the running backs, the tight ends, builds chemistry, builds relationships with those guys. They kind of know how you operate on the field, how you kind of coach them up. I think the more reps you get with the different guys, it's just going to help you in the long run."3. Gabbert has a lot of competition
Gabbert's competition is not just Kaepernick. When asked if he's competing against Kaepernick or himself every day, Gabbert's response offered a glimpse into his feelings on the battle.
"I go out there and compete against everybody," Gabbert said. "Competing against the defense. Compete against Kap. Compete with the other quarterbacks. But, I'd say I'm pretty internally motivated. I want to go out there and put my best foot forward every day. If each guy on offense, 11 guys can do that and come together as a group, it's going to be a pretty explosive, high-powered offense. So from that standpoint, I try and push myself as hard as possible each and every day."**
1. Wide receivers are working hard to build chemistry with QBs
Kaepernick applauded San Francisco's pass-catchers for their effort in practice.
"I think it's been great," Kaepernick said. "The receivers are doing a good job of being very consistent with their routes, knowing what they're doing and how we're trying to attack defenses with different plays. That's showing up on the field and it's showing up as far as what the quarterbacks are seeing on the field."
Kaepernick also said the energy has been high throughout camp. "It's always good to get that first week under your belt getting back," he said. "I think the team is doing a great job of having great focus in meetings and taking that and putting it on the practice field. I think that's shown up quite a bit and being able to make adjustments that we make in meetings and take those to the practice field as well."2. There's a reason why the defense has appeared to be ahead of the offense at this point of camp
We've heard coaches and players alike discuss the reasoning for the defense standing out so far this summer. Without referees on the field, coaches have stated that defensive backs have been extra aggressive after the 5-yard zone where they're allowed to jam receivers.
Kaepernick, on the other hand, offered a different explanation.
"I would say typically defense has the advantage when you start because you're not game planning for what they are doing," the QB said. "They might give you looks that you don't necessarily install for until you get into a game week. So there's some of those things that we have to be able to adjust to on the fly, but I think our offensive line and our receivers have done a great job with that as well as our running backs, being able to pick up different blitzes."3. Installations and 7-on-7 drills have been enjoyable When learning a new playbook, the installation work can be one of the most challenging parts process.
Kaepernick said he enjoys learning more about Kelly's scheme. It also reminds him of the system he ran as a college quarterback for Nevada.
"Very similar to what I did in college, but a much more developed version," Kaepernick said. "For me, a lot of the things are familiar, passing game-wise. A lot of things are different, but are a lot better than what I've experienced in the past. So it's very exciting in a lot of different ways."
An added wrinkle to the on-field work has been the usage of large nets in 7-on-7 periods. Both quarterbacks complimented the coaches for using the tall nets to simulate throwing through traffic at the line of scrimmage.
"I haven't had nets like that," Kaepernick said. "I've had different things to simulate that. I do think it is beneficial in 7-on-7. It gives the quarterback one more thing to kind of work around instead of dropping back. You know, offense has a little bit more of an advantage 7-on-7, so it gives us something to work on a little more while we're doing those drills."