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SANTA CLARA – The 49ers' offense ranked a respectable 11th in the NFL last season in touchdown percentage inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
But twice in a row with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, the 49ers’ season ended in crushing fashion with a failed red-zone opportunity.
“I think we just haven’t made plays,” Kaepernick said after Day 2 of the team’s organized team activities. “I think we’ve had opportunities. I think a lot of times it’s just a miscue here, a miscue there. I think if we clean those things up, we’ll be a lot more efficient this year.”
During their offseason practice Wednesday, which was open to the media, the 49ers spent a large portion of the two-hour workout on the red-zone riddle.
“I would say we’re about 35, 40 percent operating in the red zone in these OTAs,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said.
“It’s a little bit more than last year. But (I) wouldn’t say a huge step up.”
The 49ers are looking to make a huge step up in productivity within the red zone. Last year, the 49ers scored a touchdown on 56.4 percent of their trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
In the postseason, however, the 49ers cashed in on just four of their 11 red-zone trips. (They added six field goals.) Of course, their season ended with Kaepernick’s interception in the end zone against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship game.
On Wednesday, Kaepernick threw a variety of fades, slants and back-shoulder throws to veterans Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Brandon Lloyd in the end zone while the rest of the team was on another field working on special teams.
Kaepernick and Lloyd, who signed this offseason as a free agent, were seen discussing the various aspects of the plays. A short time later during an 11-on-11 session in the red zone, Kaepernick hooked up with Lloyd for a touchdown.
Kaepernick appears to have built good chemistry with Lloyd in a short period of time. Lloyd, 32, did not play last season. In his previous three seasons, he caught a combined 20 touchdown passes in stints with Denver, St. Louis and New England.
“Well, I think that’s something that we know we’ve struggled with here, the red zone,” Kaepernick said. “And that’s something we’re constantly trying to improve. He’s had success down there, so if there’s something we can pick up from him, how he runs routes, how he sets things up, that’s something we want to take and try to make ours.”
Lloyd and Stevie Johnson, acquired in a trade this month with the Buffalo Bills, join a receiving corps that feature Boldin and Crabtree as the team’s top two receivers. Neither Lloyd nor Johnson is known for his speed, so it’s important for Kaepernick to spend the offseason program learning their idiosyncrasies when running routes.
“It’s been a pretty easy learning curve for me to read their body language because they’re like Anquan and like Crab, they have very easy body language to read,” Kaepernick said. “When they’re going to come out of their breaks, and they do things so smoothly that it makes it a lot easier on the quarterback.”
Lloyd is in a battle to win a roster spot with the 49ers, but he has gotten off to a strong start in his bid to make a comeback this season.
“Seeing really good things,” Harbaugh said. “Seeing surge off the line of scrimmage. He’s got ability to burst at the top of his routes. Runs excellent routes. Acrobatic type of catches that he’s able to make. Really good hands. So far, really good. It does not seem like a guy that’s had a layoff from football for a year.”