San Francisco 49ers: Who Steps Up in Michael Crabtree’s Absence?
When the San Francisco 49ers acquired Anquan Boldin for a sixth round pick from the Baltimore Ravens it was seen as a very nice complimentary pick-up to bolster a steady receiving corps. Boldin would be joining Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and A.J. Jenkins as targets for emerging quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Now, Boldin will be asked to take on an even bigger role in the 49ers passing attack after it was learned that Crabtree suffered a torn Achilles tendon during off-season workouts and will undergo potential season-ending surgery.
Boldin is fully capable of stepping up to fill the void left by Crabtree’s injury. Heading into the season it was expected that Crabtree, who was coming off of a career-year that saw him catch 85 passes for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns, would be the number one receiver.
The 49ers have not commented on the injury yet so it is still possible that he can rehab the injury like Terrell Suggs did last season but his effectiveness would be a huge question mark and he might not be ready until the final week or two of the regular season.
Without Crabtree, the 49ers will look to Boldin to step up and be an even bigger part of the passing game. They will also need last year’s first round draft pick to make huge strides to give the 49ers an outside passing game. Jenkins only suited up for three games last season despite being healthy all year. He made it onto the field for only 37 snaps and the only pass he had thrown his way was a drop.
Mario Manningham is still a huge question mark after tearing his ACL and PCL last December and can’t be counted on at this point. Anything he gives the team this season is a plus.
The onus falls on Jenkins to contribute something, anything, to the 49ers offense. The team obviously saw something in Jenkins to use a first round pick on him and now it is his turn to show the team it wasn’t a mistake. However, until Jenkins shows the team he can understand the offense and can produce on the field it will be up to Boldin and Vernon Davis to get open and provide Kaepernick with downfield targets.
There is the potential for a free agent to be brought in to pick up the slack. Free agent wide receiver Brandon Lloyd is an outside threat and did start his career with the 49ers. He might be had a decent price this late in free agency. Other options are not nearly as attractive. Randy Moss, Braylon Edwards, Early Doucet, Steve Breaston and Devery Henderson are the next best options. Moss and Edwards have donned the 49er jersey in the past. Moss last year and Edwards in 2011. Neither did much to distinguish themselves. Llyod, however, is coming off of a season that saw him catch 74 passes for 911 yards with the New England Patriots and can still be an effective receiver.
Even if the 49ers bring in someone they will still need Jenkins to show up and Boldin to step up. For Boldin it won’t be that tall of an order. For Jenkins, well the jury is still out but judgement might be passed based on what he shows this training camp and preseason.