Michael Crabtree, WR #15
Hometown: Dallas, TX
College: Texas Tech
Experience: 4 years
For the first time in his brief NFL career, Michael Alex Crabtree is healthy and motivated. He is entering his fourth year and has had an uneventful start to his life as a 49er, summed up by his no-show in last year’s NFC Championship Game. After a illustrious college career at Texas Tech, in which he was a two-time All-American, Bilentnikof and Paul Warfield winner, he seemed destined to have a major impact on the professional level. However, due to a string of foot injuries, his practice and playing time has been limited and he has yet to live up to the potential that the 49ers envisioned by taking him with the 10th overall pick in 2009.
The word to describe Crabtree’s play thus far is inconsistent. He entered this season with 176 receptions for 2,246 yards and 12 career touchdowns, so he has shown flashes of being a solid receiver, but for as many times as he has helped the 49ers, there have been just as many inexplicable drops and games where he has been virtually invisible due to his inability to get open.
Crabtree has been labeled a diva by those who have looked at his lack of fire on the football field and in his preparation leading up to games. It also didn’t help that he was the first rookie since 2005 to not report to camp due to a contract dispute and threatened to sit out the entire season if needed. The issue was of course eventually resolved, but it has been hard for him to shake the label of being the typical selfish rookie who thinks he is deserving of something he has not earned.
Although the contract dispute was made out to be more than it was, the labeling of him as a diva did have a ring of truth to it, and he did nothing to prove his naysayers wrong with his uninspired play on the field. It could be the harsh criticism finally getting though, or it could be due to the fact that he realizes that if he turns in a year like the one he had in 2011, he may find himself buried at the bottom of the depth chart, but something seems to have awaken Crabtree from his slumber.
In their season opener, it was not the new receivers––Randy Moss, Mario Mannigham or A.J. Jenkins––but Crabtree that was the focus of the offense. After going three and out on their first possession, the team looked to the passing game and Crabtree to help them move the chains. He responded with several key plays capped by an impressive catch and run on a third down to keep a drive alive. His play helped the team grab its early lead, which was key to the victory over the Green Bay Packers.
Fans have seen this side of Crabtree before, so it will be interesting to see if he continues his impressive play. What is hopeful is that he does not really have a choice––if he doesn’t play well he will find himself watching from the sidelines, as the none of the new receivers lack motivation, and unlike before, there are other options. What the emergence of Crabtree can mean is a passing attack that turns the 49ers offense into a balanced attack, which will make them a serious contender for the NFC Crown.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.