Thursday, May 23, 2013

What to Do Without Crabtree?

Even if your a casual football fan in the Bay Area, I'm sure you heard the news circulation Bay Area sports talk waves Wednesday after news surfaced that the 49ers may very well be without #1 wideout Micheal Crabtree for most or all of the upcoming 2013 season.

What a tough break to hit a team with Super Bowl aspirations heading into next season, especially after the way Kaepernick and he built such a good rapport in the second half of 2012. If your not up on the details yet, Crabtree tore his Achilles tendon in the 49ers OTA's on Wednesday and immediately went under the knife to get it repaired. The initial thought after the injury was that maybe Crabtree would avoid injury and miss 3-4 months, but after surgery became necessary, his 2012 season immediately went into doubt. The tentative timetable coming out of 49ers headquarters is 6-months, which if true would put him back in position to return to the field towards the end of the regular season. Jim Harbough has made it quite clear that he's not counting out having his top wideout at some point in 2013, but most believe the injury will take closer to 8-10 months to fully heal. Whether it's 6 months and Crabtree's back for the last quarter of the season, or he misses it completely, the 49ers have just lost one of their top offensive weapons and they're going to have to address the issue.

That trade for Anquan Boldin is looking mighty good right about now, but even with Boldin in tow, the return of Mario Mannigham and the expected improvement from A.J. Jenkins, the 49ers have to go our and fill Crabtree's spot with another proven pass catcher that will take up some defensive attention. There's always the option to make a trade, but now that the 49ers are in obvious need, teams could really hold them for ransom. The one name I've seen that is intriguing and could be available is Tennessee's Nate Washington who has some big play ability and has put up decent numbers with below average quarterbacks with the Titans. The most likely addition, if they make one however, will likely come via the free agent market. There still could be other names hitting the market in the coming weeks, but right now I'd say their top target would be former 49er Brandon Lloyd. The 32 year-old showed signs of being a top wideout with San Francisco early in his career, but didn't quite start thriving until he arrived in Denver in 2010 and became Kyle Orton's number one target. Lloyd has had some injury issues in his career, but turned in a decent season in New England last year, putting up a 74/911/4 line while playing 3rd fiddle to Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski. Lloyd is intriguing because of his ability to stretch the field whereas Boldin and Manningham are more intermediate route runners.

While I fully expect a new addition to be made to the receiving corps by July, the 49ers are still going to need their players internally to really step up in Crabtree's absence. The two guys I'm talking about in particular are Vernon Davis and A.J. Jenkins. Davis fell of the face of the earth after Kaepernick took over for Smith last season, and those two must find a connection with each other this summer. Also, A.J. Jenkins was a major bust in year number one, although he did have quite a few guys ahead of him on the depth chart. If they're going to overcome the loss of Kaep's favorite target, they have to find him a new one, and both of those guys will have to be better and more consistent in 2013.

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