There’s never a lot of worthwhile news from around the NFL this time of year, but that wasn’t the case yesterday. The San Francisco 49ers have lost their best wide receiver to a torn Achilles tendon. Michael Crabtree has surgery yesterday, and will likely miss most of the 2013 season.
This is big news for the Seahawks, as well as the rest of the NFC West. The 49ers are already without Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams, both of whom missed the end of the 2012 season with ACL injuries.
This leaves the 49ers with a major problem. Their top receiver is an aging Anquan Boldin who seems to have lost what little speed and quickness he once had. Boldin will likely start on one side, with rookie Quinton Patton on the other side.
Tight ends Vernon Davis and rookie Vance McDonald might be the best receiving targets for QB Colin Kaepernick at this point. I also would be surprised to see in increased role for RB LaMichael James in the passing game with a Darren Sproles-type role within the offense.
Lucky for the 49ers, Crabtree might not be done for the year. Changes to the PUP-list rules mean that there is no longer a week 10 deadline for a player to return from an offseason injury. Starting in 2013, a team can wait as long as week 15 to activate a player off the PUP list. This means that Crabtree could be back in time to help with a late season playoff push.
All is not bleak in San Francisco. It is possible that 2nd year player AJ Jenkins turns out to not be a complete bust. The coaches are also high on the possibility that Richardo Lockette (remember him?) could finally put it all together and become a productive WR. There is also legitimate hope that Williams could be ready for week 1.
Overall though, there are far more questions than answers in San Francisco right now, and it probably doesn’t matter all that much. The WRs were never the strength of the team, even with a healthy Crabtree. The 49ers win on the strength of their defense and rushing attack, and the loss of Crabtree wont change that.