Big news broke after the San Francisco 49ers first-day of organized team activities, but it’s not the type of news Niner fans were expecting: Wide receiver Michael Crabtree tore his Achilles and has undergone surgery.
Crabtree had the surgery on Tuesday night and he is expected to miss at least six months. That puts him on track to be back with the team by November, if the recovery goes as planned. However, it is likely he will miss the whole season because torn Achilles injuries usually take a year to fully recover from. The receiver is coming off his best NFL season after recording 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns. He continued his great performance into the playoffs with 28 receptions for 285 yards and three touchdowns.
This is a huge loss for the 49ers and the offense with Crabtree out for most of the regular season. After taking over as the starting quarterback last season, Colin Kaepernick consistently looked to Crabtree and he became his favorite receiving target. The Kaepernick-to-Crabtree connection was so important to the 49ers offense that the team called on them for their final three offensive plays at the goal line to go ahead in the Super Bowl.
The addition of Anquan Boldin in a trade this past offseason helps ease the impact of losing Crabtree. The 49ers did not anticipate using Boldin as a No.1 receiver this season, but he is cable of handling that role. However, the stunning news of Crabtree’s injury means other receivers will have to step up.
Two of the receivers, Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams, suffered serious injuries of their own last season. So we don’t know what type of receivers the offense will be getting in 2013 with them because they are still recovering. In fact, both might not be ready by the time training camp starts in late July.
Then there’s this guy:
No one, not even A.J. Jenkins, knows type of receiver he is, despite him being a first-round selection in last season’s draft. Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman will now have to rely on Jenkins becoming at least a reliable target for Kaepernick. With zero starts and receptions last season, I don’t have a lot of confidence in Jenkins being the receiver that will step up and become dependable. However, I hope to be proven wrong.
Fourth-round draft pick Quinton Patton has received praise from Harbaugh for his passion and dedication. But receivers drafted in the fourth-round usually don’t put up the type of numbers the Niners are looking to replace in their rookie season.
There is also Vernon Davis who can be used like a wide receiver and commands the attention of defenses. But Davis made a name for himself as a receiver while Alex Smith was under center for the 49ers. Last season it was clear, unlike Smith, that Davis was not Kaepernick’s favorite target. Sure, passes went his way but they were not as consistent with Kaepernick at quarterback. Davis now has an opportunity to form a connection with Kap like Crabtree established last season.
The rest of the receivers on the 49ers current roster are Chad Hill, Joe Hastings, Chuck Jacobs, Ricardo Lockette and Marlon Moore.
The 49ers have stayed relatively healthy during the Harbaugh era with only a few major injuries. But all it takes is one major injury to disrupt a Super Bowl contender. But Harbaugh and his coaches will figure this out and find a replacement that will keep the offense on its tracks.
The most frustrating part of Crabtree’s injury is it occurred at OTAs, which are all non-contact drills.