If Thursday’s practice at the 49ers headquarters served as any indication of Randy Moss’ positive influence on former No. 10 overall pick Michael Crabtree, fans of this San Francisco franchise should be thoroughly encouraged.
At least for now.
Moss put on a relative clinic, wowing his 49ers compatriots with his route-running and knowledge of the game.
"It's tough to tell that he missed a year of football. I certainly don't see any rust," said Alex Smith. "He's running well, catching well…and already has a good understanding of the playbook."
Crabtree, the longest-standing 49ers wideout, has been absent from the majority of offseason practices and all preseason games during the first three years of his career, due to a contract holdout and various injuries. That’s one reason why Niners coaches and fans should feel confident about a potential career-defining development for the former Texas Tech product.
And now with one of the most prolific wide receivers ever to traverse the NFL gridiron waxing eloquent on the finer nuances of the position, well, let’s just say the pieces are in place for Crabtree to succeed at a much higher level.
There is finally an on-the-field mentor for Crabtree, a receiver so ill fitted for the No. 1 role. He can finally take a backseat to a player clearly suited for the responsibilities of an offense’s go-to weapon—provided that team witnesses the arrival of the 2007-09 Moss, not the 2005 or 2010 version.
What kind of effect will Moss have on Crabtree?
Despite it being just a mere practice, showing teammates how it’s done with a 55-yard "touchdown" catch and "sprinting off the line on every snap" are fair instances of Moss’ influential presence.
And who wouldn’t want to perform and compete to the best of his capabilities in front of the All-World receiver?
Furthermore, in addition to possessing a firm grasp on the playbook—for the first time, pre-regular season—Crabtree will thrive as the 49ers’ underneath possession receiver. Moss will facilitate that by occupying defensive backs over the top.
Crabs will no longer face the opposition’s best corner; that DB will shift over to Moss (or Mario Manningham or perhaps A.J. Jenkins for that matter). That should alleviate the anguish among fans with memories of Crabtree’s awful performance in the NFC championship game in which he consistently failed to gain separation.
Yes, it was Moss’ first formal practice with the team. Yes, it is highly premature to make any objective predictions regarding his effect on the other WRs.
However, Crabtree’s coming-out party will materialize for the 2012 season, even if all of his stats do not necessarily reflect that. The 49ers are equipped with an abundance of offensive weapons; there’s only so much to go around.
Barring an unlikely return of certain prima donna and minimal-effort tendencies by Crabtree and Moss, respectively, I predict the emergence of a dynamic duo on the field for the 49ers this season.
To both my supporters and detractors, let the comments flow.