Michael Crabtree may never become the player many would expect from a former two-time Biletnikoff Award winner, but the fourth-year wide out is well on his way this season.
The 49ers receiver had 34 catches for 368 yards and a touchdown coming into San Francisco's Monday Night Football matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. Those are definitely average numbers, but blowing up talented defensive back Patrick Peterson for two touchdowns in the first half is not average.
I mean, this was a great catch for his first score:
Crabtree is beginning to look like his old self, and he can thank his teammates for that. Adding guys like Randy Moss and Mario Manningham to the fold has helped, as has one of the league's best rushing attacks.
Prior to the arrival of Moss and Manningham, Crabtree had to be some version of the guy. Now, he just has to be a guy. That has allowed him mental and physical freedom.
There's no doubt that Crabtree has felt some pressure since entering the league. He was incredible as a Texas Tech Red Raider, and anything short of super stardom was unfathomable. But entering an offense that featured an anemic Alex Smith, a troubled Vernon Davis and Frank Gore didn't help.
Crabtree didn't stand a chance against those odds. High expectations combined with very little support won't end well for a receiver. How was he supposed to get the ball when Smith spent so much time on his back, or throwing the ball to the other team?
Things are different now. Crabtree might have the most physical talent on the team, but he's not expected to be a star every week. Manningham is dynamic and a proven winner. Davis has finally added maturity to his unparalleled raw talent, and Moss is Moss. That allows Crabtree to take on more of a possession role in the offense, and he gains confidence with each passing game.
Finishing Monday night's game with five catches for 72 yards and two scores was a solid and refreshing performance for the former first-round NFL draft pick. He's still not a Hall of Fame player by any means, but people are starting to see why he was so touted coming out of college.
If he can continue working on his ability to separate, Crabtree has a lot of potential. The 49ers' offseason additions are allowing him to realize that ability, and it's paying off for all parties involved.