NEW ORLEANS — Everyone, it seems, is "Kaepernicking" these days. But in the case of Ravens practice-squad QB Dennis Dixon, it’s because he’s being asked to.
49ers QB Colin Kaepernick has set the NFL on fire in his nine starts, replacing injured Alex Smith and helping the team get back to its first Super Bowl in 17 years. Kaepernick has tried to trademark “Kaepernicking” – a celebration he popularized – which involves kissing his biceps after scoring a touchdown.
The maneuver has gone viral and has pushed aside last year’s Tebowing phenomenon. But in the Ravens’ case, they are asking Dixon to imitate the unique run-pass skills of Kaepernick in their practices leading up to Super Bowl XLVII.
“I had an idea they would want me to do that,” said Dixon, a fifth-year QB out of Oregon. A fifth-round pick of the Steelers in 2008, Dixon – who ran the read-option offense under now-Eagles head coach Chip Kelly for the Ducks – was released by Pittsburgh this summer and signed to the Ravens’ practice squad in September.
“I take on any assignment my team asks of me,” he said. “I am happy to do it, and I am having fun in practice. Anything I can do to help my friends prepare, I am going to do it. And I am going to have fun doing it.”
The assignment is not wholly new for Dixon, who did his best to mimic the athleticism of Redskins QB Robert Griffin III prior to the teams’ Week 14 game. The Ravens did a decent job of containing Griffin, holding him to 34 rushing yards and sacking him three times in that game.
“There are differences and similarities between the zone-read (offenses of the 49ers and Redskins),” Dixon said. “But it’s two very young quarterbacks doing it at a very high level. They both play with a lot of confidence, too.
“I pride myself on being a student of the game, of learning my craft.”
Dixon said that when executed at a high level, the zone read can be very difficult to stop.
“It takes time and practice,” he said. “If (a team) spends the time it takes to commit to it, it can be really tough to defend. But it takes total control by everyone, not just the quarterback exchange: the receivers, the linemen, all 11 players getting it down.”
Dixon hopes that the new rash of athletic quarterbacks and the proliferation of the zone read could give him a better chance to perform in the NFL. He completed 35-of-59 passes for 402 yards, one TD and two INTs in four games (three starts) with the Steelers. Reports have tied him to joining the Eagles this offseason along with Kelly.
“I haven’t called Chip yet,” Dixon said with a laugh when asked if he could join the Eagles. “I hear he’s very busy now.”
Kelly was tough on Dixon — the QB said he was “hands down” the toughest coach he ever played for. But he also believes that tough coaching made him a better player. Although there is doubt about whether Kelly’s offensive concepts from Oregon can translate in the pros, Dixon believes it can work.
“I never put anything past Chip Kelly,” Dixon said. “Whatever is on his mind, I am 100 percent with it. He’s a very good guru as far as offense. If he thinks he can transfer that offense from Oregon to the pros, I have confidence in him.”
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