How much will Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham help the San Francisco 49ers this year? With the 49ers’ anemic receiving corps, the popular answer is “a lot.” Yet, Manningham has not been a top receiver for years and Crabtree, for all the flash he showed last year, only recently began to overcome a tentative “bust” label. Can he come back and play at a top level? Can he do that this season?
Manningham should be playing within the next couple of weeks. He may not be a solid 2 receiver, but most likely he will be an improvement over Jonathan Baldwin/Kyle Williams. Even if he only catches 3 balls a game for 20 yards and a touchdown every 2-3 games he will be an improvement. That is sad to think about, but that is the case when your fullback, Bruce Miller, is the team’s third-leading receiver. Mario may not be the “spark” he is hyped up to be, but he hopefully will take some coverage off of the glue-for-hands Anquan Boldin and the up-for-sale Vernon Davis.
As for Crabs, he may not be back until late November—though perhaps mid-November will see his return—and when he does come back, he almost certainly will not be at the same levels of play and chemistry with Colin Kaepernick that he was at last season. That will take time. Assuming he DOES make it back to the “elite” level he was at last season, this will take time. Assuming he makes it back this season, a HUGE if, it will probably not occur for about a month, which means playoff time, which means the 49ers very well may peak at the right time. Greg Roman may be on to something after all.