Michael Crabtree (AP Photo)
On May 21, Michael Crabtree of the San Francisco 49ers tore his achillies tendon while participating in team activities. Although this is typically a season- ending injury, coach Harbaugh has come out and said that he is optimistic that Crabtree won’t miss the entire season.
Last year, Crabtree led the team with 85 receptions, 1,105 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Crabtree also caught 20 passes for 285 yards and three touchdown passes in the niners’ three playoff games. This injury really came at an inopportune time not only because it happened to one of the team’s more productive players, but it also halted one of the better quarterback-receiver tandems in the NFL, Kaepernick to Crabtree.
It’s no coincidence that Crabtree’s catches, yards and touchdowns all went up significantly in a year were Colin Kaepernick took the reigns as starting quarterback. Both of them almost immediately were in sync with one another and with every passing week, Crabtree became the number one option for the young quarterback. In Kaepernick’s ten starts last year, he targeted Crabtree 94 times. Next were Vernon Davis and Randy Moss with 39. Crabtree has been quoted as saying that he felt that Kaepernick trusted him more which resulted in him having a breakout year.
With this injury, that has Crabtree coming back in late November-early December (if at all) , the 49ers will have to rely on other targets. Here are some of the candidates.
Anquan Boldin: This man undoubtedly becomes the number one receiver on the team. At this stage of his career (32 years old) he is more of a possession receiver but he has a knack for coming up with huge plays at the end of games. In last year’s Superbowl Boldin caught six balls for 104 yards and one touchdown. Not only does he bring instant offense but also brings toughness and leadership to a relatively young wide receiver group.
Vernon Davis: Much was made about Davis’ struggles to be on the same page with Kaepernick last season. In the last five regular season games Davis caught only six passes which is really mindblowing considering how big and fast this guy is. Building chemistry between him and Kaepernick has to be the number one priority for him this offseason. In the NFC Championship and the Superbowl, Davis caught 11 passes, six of those coming in the Superbowl so there is reason to be optimistic. The fact that Anquan Boldin is more of a slot receiver could force the 49ers to use Davis as an outside target. The ability Davis has to run deep routes and his speed should make for some interesting plays.
A.J. Jenkins: With Mario Manningham being unlikely to be ready for training camp, this puts Jenkins as the likely starter to be along side Anquan Boldin. Last year Jenkins only played in three games and didn’t register a single reception. His speed alone could be the sole reason why the 49ers use him as their primary deep threat in the early part of the season and with injuries to Manningham, Crabtree and Kyle Williams, the former first round pick will most likely be on the field and will be expected to contribute.