Michael Crabtree goes by the name of @KingCrab15 on Twitter, but most people refer to the San Francisco 49ers receiver as #yungcrab, including Crabtree himself. For example:
— Michael Crabtree (@KingCrab15) October 31, 2013
He turned 26 less than two months ago, so he can get away with calling himself “yung” for a while. And the 49ers are glad he’s still a relative pup, because his age probably helped him heal quickly enough to get cleared to practice today for the first time since tearing his Achilles back in May.
This means a couple things. First, the 49ers have a 21-day window to decide whether or not to put him on the 53-man roster, although they can activate him at any time. Second, Crabtree’s surgery and subsequent rehabilitation were enormously successful.
It’s hard to know what’s going on when someone has major surgery, because the teams, players, doctors and agents all have a vested interest in making sure everyone looks good. However, there was no reason to rush Crabtree; no one would have been all that concerned if he wasn’t cleared to practice until next week. There’s no reason to rush him back and risk a setback, so the fact that all systems are go on Nov. 5 is a sign that he’s ready to make a lot of guys’ lives easier — with Colin Kaepernick and Anquan Boldin tops on that list.
Yesterday we explained how Mario Manningham’s sure-handedness will help Kaepernick. To give you a couple ideas as to what the presence of Crabtree will do for Kaepernick’s game, check out a stat from Jeff Deeney of Pro Football Focus:
Michael Crabtree’s stats in Kaepernick’s 10 starts in 2012: 61 catches, 880 yards, 8 TDs. Kap had a 130.4 rating when targeting him. #49ers
— Jeff Deeney (@PFF_Jeff) November 5, 2013
Kaepernick’s rating when targeting all the non-Boldin wideouts? 32.4.
Crabtree’s eventual return, along with Manningham presumably starting as early as Sunday against the Panthers, also helps someone other than Kaepernick, Boldin or Vernon Davis. This is fantastic news for the 49ers and Frank Gore, because the team needs to do a better job preserving their lead running back throughout the second half of the season than they did in the first.
Gore probably wouldn’t agree that he needs a decreased workload, but he’s on pace for 292 carries this season. That would be the most for Gore since he rushed 312 times in 2006, his first full season as a starter.
The 49ers run the ball more often (55.8% of the time) than any other team in the NFL. It’s worked so far, but that’s a little extreme … even for them. To keep Gore fresh and opponents guessing, a goal over the next eight games should be to move that number closer to 50%. With three actual receivers to go along with Davis, instead of Boldin and a mishmash of blech, that shouldn’t be too difficult.
Two last notes
1. Those who’ve complained about Greg Roman’s play-calling this season will probably be a lot quieter throughout the rest of this season with a healthy Manningham and Crabtree opening up a new world of possibilities. It’s amazing that the 49ers found a way to score 30+ points five games in a row with the weapons they had, even considering the quality of the teams they faced.
2. I’m pretty embarrassed that my first choice for a headline was “Crabtree’s back … ALRIGHT!” Never good when your first inclination after hearing breaking football news is to harken back to a Backstreet Boys song. So ashamed …