Editor’s note: Insider Matt Maiocco will be providing position-by-position breakdowns each day leading up to 49ers training camp, which opens with their first full-squad practice on Saturday.
Who they have: Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert, Dylan Thompson
Who they lost: Josh Johnson
Looking back: Kaepernick posted regular-season career-highs in passing yards (3,369) and rushing yards (641). But that did not translate into victories, as the 49ers failed to make the playoffs for the first time in Kaepernick's three seasons as the starter. Although he improved his completion percentage to 60.5, his passer rating dropped to 86.4, which ranked 17th in the league among quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts.
Overall outlook: There is little question the 49ers will go as far as Kaepernick carries them. His .641 win percentage in the regular season ranks eighth among active quarterbacks. He spent the offseason working with an independent quarterbacks coach in Arizona on tightening up his mechanics. He also had approximately 10 sessions with Kurt Warner on sharpening the mental aspect of his game.
Camp competition: Kaepernick is the unquestioned starter, of course. And Gabbert is back as the No. 2 after signing a two-year, $4 million contract. The 49ers are convinced Gabbert, the former first-round draft pick, can succeed in this role if he’s pressed into service. The competition at this spot will likely involve Thompson, an undrafted rookie from South Carolina, against players at other positions. The 49ers will have to weigh keeping a third quarterback on their 53-man roster, as opposed to an extra tight end, defensive lineman or defensive back.
Bottom line: It’s all about Kaepernick. As much as the 49ers would like to see Kaepernick still be a major threat with his legs, it’s how he performs in the pocket that will determine whether he’s going to take the next step and lead the 49ers back into the playoffs. The 49ers added a deep threat, wide receiver Torrey Smith, and tight end Vernon Davis must again be a factor in the passing game. The offensive line is a question mark, but Kaepernick must also be more decisive and do a better job of anticipating where receivers will break open to avoid unnecessary sacks.