Reports surfaced earlier today about Michael Crabtree tearing his Achilles tendon during OTAs. While Crabtree was deemed a bust by many early in his career, his career simultaneously took off with the emergence of Colin Kaepernick under center. Had Crabtree remained healthy, there is no reason to believe he could have replicated the same success in 2013-14. Instead, similar to the much publicized situation in New England, the 49ers will be forced to rely on a couple unproven wide receivers to carry the load. A.J. Jenkins and rookie Quinton Patton will both have the opportunity to earn serious playing time this upcoming season. However, how successful the 49ers potent offense will be without Crabtree remains to be seen. Our friends over at William Hill, the top bookmaker at the UK, had the 49ers (tied with the Seahawks) at 8/1 odds to win next year’s Super Bowl. Anquan Boldin is getting older, and Vernon Davis disappeared for stretches in 2012. Given the uncertainty of the rest of the 49ers receivers, there is reason to be concerned about the Crabtree injury.
The NFC West, once the laughingstock of the NFL, is becoming one of the stronger divisions in football. The Seahawks obviously showed everyone what they can do in 2012, and the Rams, while certainly not on the Seahawks level, showed flashes of a team that could be tough to beat with a couple added pieces. Meanwhile in Arizona, new head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer will improve an offense that has nowhere to go but up. Already with a strong defensive unit, the Cardinals could look to be the team with a new head coach that turns heads in 2013.
Six months from now, this column could look very foolish. Even without Crabtree, Jim Harbaugh still has a number of weapons at his disposal. The team could probably get by with its strong running attack and defense, as it did in years past. However, the comfortability that Colin Kaepernick demonstrated with Michael Crabtree simply will not be there when the gunslinger from Nevada enters his first full season as a starter. The 49ers offense we saw roll through the playoffs in the 2012-2013 season will be much different than the one that takes the field this season.