There are whispers coming out of San Francisco that Michael Crabtree may have won a starting job during the 49ers bye week. The first round receiver had just joined practices after signing his contract and was only penciled in to play on third downs. Apparently, he’s been a quick study and may immediately take Josh Morgan’s job as the split end (X).
Morgan was mature enough to stay in San Francisco during the bye to help Crabtree learn how to play his position. Despite being the team’s second-leading receiver behind Vernon Davis, Morgan may be forced to share time in the slot receiver (Y) rotation and potentially become a return man. However, San Francisco offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye has stated before that Morgan can play all three receiver positions. He’s a pretty good blocker and did get a lot of reps at the flanker receiver (Z) over the summer. So there’s also a chance he could overtake Isaac Bruce as the starter opposite Crabtree.
Crabtree has gotten rave reviews from teammates so far. Frank Gore said the rookie is explosive, has great hands, and runs great routes. San Francisco quarterback Shaun Hill was also impressed by Crabtree saying:
“You kind of think, ‘OK, he’s a little bit on the short side.’ But when he’s out there playing and he gets his hands up and his arms out, he’s a big target. Very strong hands to the ball. He attacks the ball. I think he’s going to be good for us.”
49ers coach Mike Singletary affirmed speculation about Crabtree starting. He told the San Jose Mercury News that “even though he’s come in late, he looks like he’s ready.” Personally, I think Crabtree could end up somewhere between Cris Carter and Anquan Boldin in terms of skill set. Crabtree probably won’t be known for his size or speed. However, he does have elite body control balance to shield himself from defenders. His hand are also top notch and he’s a solid route runner — though the offense at Texas Tech is simplistic compared to an NFL offense. In any case, he’ll probably be better than the only receiver taken before him in the 2009 NFL Draft. Without lining up for a single snap, Crabtree is only two catches and 36 yards behind Oakland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey.