What can the San Francisco 49ers expect from Michael Crabtree this week in his first game after tearing his Achilles in May? Probably not too much. Yes, Crabtree has been practicing for over three weeks now, but it will definitely take some time for his cutting ability and speed to get back to where it was. This is an injury that makes it difficult to walk for quite a long time, let alone play wide receiver at the highest level.
Even though Colin Kaepernick and Crabtree had great chemistry at the end of last year, it will no doubt take a little while for them to get their timing back. Crabtree’s speed will not quite be where it was—though it hopefully will get there sooner rather than later—and his cutting ability, i.e. how fast he gets in and out of his breaks, will be a little different as well. When milliseconds are the difference between touchdowns and incompletions (or interceptions), the precision of timing is incredibly important. (This is a small part of the reason why Kaepernick has struggled with everyone not named Vernon Davis or Anquan Boldin, as the other receiving spots have pretty much been a revolving door.)
As Crabtree continues to recover and get closer to 100%, the timing and chemistry should return between a potential top-5 quarterback and potential top-5 receiver. This team could get really good. Fast.