It happens quickly this time of year, players are beginning to put their bodies on the line again and any time a player steps on the field there is a thin line between getting through the day healthy and catastrophe.
Today, catastrophe (at least in the 2013 season sense) struck Michael Crabtree and the 49ers as the receiver tore his Achilles and will soon undergo surgery. In the second half of last season and into the playoffs Crabtree was blossoming along with quarterback Colin Kaepernick, finally living up to his first round draft status and looking like a potential star for the 49ers in 2013. Now, the teams with hopes of returning to the Super Bowl will need to look elsewhere for production – if not for the entire season then certainly for a significant chunk.
The loss of a receiving talent like Crabtree’s cannot be understated for the team, that also saw reliable weapon Delanie Walker depart for greener pastures in free agency. The signing of Anquan Boldin helps, but, the physical receiver won’t necessarily be able to replace Crabtree’s field stretching ability – the third year talent had at least one catch of more than 30+ yards in five of the teams last six games last season.
The immediate onus then shifts to young WRs Quinton Patton (a 2013 draft selection) and A.J. Jenkins who admittedly experienced a humbling rookie season in which he appeared in just three games. We spoke earlier today of a quarterback who must gel with new receivers to ensure his team’s offensive success and now the 49ers find themselves in a similar position. None of Kaepernick’s top three receivers have caught a single pass from the rising star, so he’ll have to develop chemistry quickly.
The team may add depth to the position as the offseason wears on, one name that is floating around frequently is Brandon Lloyd (h/t to Chet Gresham), Randy Moss may get the chance he was recently denied and return for another year with the 49ers as well, but they will be hard pressed to match the production on field and rapport demonstrated between Kaepernick and number 15.
San Francisco won’t be the only team that the injury imp attacks before September, and the timing of the injury is beneficial as compared to August where Crabtree’s season almost certainly would have been over, however, he and the team alike now face an uphill battle.