San Francisco 49ers’ Wide Receiver Michael Crabtree went down with a torn Achilles tendon on Tuesday. Head Coach Jim Harbaugh said that the injury occured in 7-on-7 drills, “He was coming in motion, just planted, started a route and felt like somebody kicked him in Achilles,” Harbaugh said. Obviously, this is a big loss for the 49ers, as Crabtree had a great rapport with quarterback Colin Kaepernick down the stretch last season and appeared to be headed towards a breakout season. Somebody will have to step up and produce for the 49ers, who could that be?
Crabtree has already had surgery and there is about a six month expected recovery time. So it is likely that he makes a return late in the season, and has enough time to get ready for a playoff run. That being said, there will still be plenty of opportunity for other players in his absence as he will not be expected back any time soon.
The most obvious guy to see more balls thrown his way, is tight end Vernon Davis. Davis has had an inconsistent career in San Francisco, but he will now be depended on more. He simply needs to step up. The acquisition of Anquan Boldin appears to be much more important now than what it seemed to be at the time. He will be counted on as a veteran presence in the receiver core, and will help fill the void of Crabtree in the passing game. Mario Manningham is still on the team as well, but he is recovering from a torn ACL and it is unknown when he will be ready to go. If he does return soon, he could be a nice option for the 49ers.
Boldin, Davis and to a certain extent Manningham, mostly do their work on the inside of the field. Crabtree did his work on the outside. Last year’s first round pick A.J. Jenkins barely saw the field as a rookie last season, but now he may have to help fill the void of Crabtree. Jenkins is projected to be an outside receiver, so that helps his chances to get on the field. This year San Francisco drafted Quinton Patton in the 4th round. He is a guy that could contribute right away and also projects as an outside receiver.
The 49ers have said that they do not plan to sign anybody to replace Crabtree, but there are interesting options available in free agency. The return of Randy Moss seems possible. Guys like Brandon Lloyd, Devery Henderson and Laurent Robinson also make some sense. Could they possibly give Terrell Owens a shot?
When it comes down to it I think the 49ers will pretty much try to get away with what they currently have on the roster. I think this will make them run the ball more than they were planning, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. This is still an outstanding team. Their defense is arguably the best in the league, Kaepernick looks to be one of the best young QBs in the NFL and they have a nice stable of capable running backs. With or without Crabtree this team is probably going to be just fine.