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Niners defenders rave over Colin Kaepernick's growth

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The spree of retirements and mad roster churning in San Francisco has swiveled the spotlight away from what might truly decide the fate of this year's 49ers: the play of Colin Kaepernick.

The fifth-year quarterback is coming off a down campaign that saw him toss just 19 touchdown passes against a career-high 10 picks, while scoring just once on the ground. It didn't help that he took a whopping 52 sacks behind a less-than-stellar line, but Kaepernick's game was out of whack for long stretches of 2014.

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His teammates, though, see a different player at the start of training camp, with 49ers safety Eric Reid saying, per Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area: "I'm very optimistic about the season Colin will have this year."

"He's been throwing the ball very well through the offseason program," Reid said. "A couple balls, I was like, 'Man, that was a good throw.' He's definitely been putting in the work and it shows. I'm excited."

Veteran safety Antoine Bethea pointed out that Kaepernick -- who worked this offseason with former-MVP quarterback Kurt Warner -- is "not telegraphing where he's going," while Reid praised the quarterback for "making the touch throws on the deep throws, and the ball is hanging and dropping over the DBs."

First-year play-caller Geep Chryst is cooking up a new-look attack that likely will veer away from the multiple Jim Harbaugh/Greg Roman-led scheme that fried teams en route to three straight NFC title games.

Better play from the quarterback position is key, but San Francisco has seen key linemen Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis exit stage left, along with foundation back Frank Gore. The talent drain alone leaves the Niners as a logical pick for last place in the NFC West, but a reborn Kaepernick remains the best medicine against a collapse.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast discusses Tom Brady's lawsuit and debates which veteran players are most likely to be cut.

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