San Francisco 49ers: Michael Crabtree Injury Unleashes Questions in Passing Game

Martin TelleriaSenior Analyst IIIMay 24, 2013

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 03:  Corey Graham #24 of the Baltimore Ravens breaks up a pass inteded for Michael Crabtree #15 of the San Francisco 49ers during Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Ravens won 34-31.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Fantasy geeks, rejoice. Vernon Davis might be in for a huge year.

With Michael Crabtree likely out for six months following surgery to repair his torn Achilles tendon, Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick must now find a way to replace the massive production they were looking to receive from their No. 1 option.

Enter Davis. Coming off the heels of two back-to-back playoff explosions—104 yards against the Baltimore Ravens and 106 yards and a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons—many were pegging Davis to have a huge year anyway.

With Crabtree on the shelf for at least the beginning of the season, Davis is now the clear-cut No. 1.

He’ll have to play like it if the San Francisco 49ers hope to weather the storm that Crabtree's injury has brought.

While the 49ers have become known for their physical running game, the promotion of Kaepernick last season opened the door for increased production in the passing game.

Crabtree was evidence of that. With Alex Smith at the helm for the first eight games, Crabtree had amassed only one 100-yard game and three touchdowns. Upon the emergence of Kaepernick, those numbers jumped to three 100-yard games and six touchdowns in the second half of the season.

It continued in the playoffs, where the emerging receiver added two more 100-yard performances and three touchdowns in three games.

Everything was aligned for a huge year in 2013-14.

With him now assuredly out of the equation, Davis must step up his game.

Only amassing 548 yards and five touchdowns last season, the 49ers will need a lot more from their former first-round pick. He must now do what he was drafted to do and what we know he is capable of.

He is only four years removed from his record-setting year in 2009, when he went for 965 yards and 13 touchdowns.

If he can provide the 49ers with similar numbers again, they might be able to make up production elsewhere.

The Anquan Boldin trade now looks even better following the injury. The similarities between Boldin and Crabtree are evident. Neither will ever be confused for speedsters, but the valuable assets they provide more than make up for it.

Strong hands, the willingness to go down the middle of the field and the toughness to break through tackles are traits both men possess.

Whether or not the eleven-year veteran can keep up his solid production will be instrumental in whether or not the passing game falters.

Especially because further down the depth chart all we find is questions.

With Mario Manningham having suffered a torn ACL and PCL last December, his ability to produce upon his return will be in question. While reports have surfaced that he has began running and cutting, via Josh Alper of NBC Sports, there is never a guarantee that a player ever returns the same from that type of injury.

The mystery surrounding A.J. Jenkins is of a different variety. Upon entering camp out of shape last season, the 2012 first-round pick was the target of one pass last season. We have no idea of whether he is even capable of playing in this league.

Still, he bulked up over the offseason and has been living with Kaepernick for two months, via Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News. These seem to be signs that Jenkins might be in for a bigger role.

With numerous question marks surrounding the passing attack, Vernon Davis must become a relialbe source of production. He must become more than just a vocal leader. He’s too skilled to not pick up the slack for Crabtree.

Jim Harbaugh will figure the rest out.