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Michael Crabtree's Achilles tendon tear means the competition is now wide open for the 49ers' No. 1 wide receiver.
When San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree tore his Achilles tendon in OTAs earlier this spring, the team lost its top receiving target from 2012.
Last season, Crabtree was targeted by quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick 126 times, for a total of 1,105 yards on 85 receptions—nearly twice as many targets, receptions and yards as the second-highest targeted player on the team, tight end Vernon Davis.
The transition from Smith to Kaepernick only further increased the receiver's role in the 49ers offense, with three of his four 100-plus-yard receiving games coming after the switch. There was no one more important to the success of San Francisco's passing game, and now he's gone for at least part of—if not all—the 2013 season.
Assuming that Anquan Boldin, who the Niners acquired in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens, is the team's No. 2 receiver this year, the competition for Crabtree's spot will come down to A.J. Jenkins, Kyle Williams, Mario Manningham, Quinton Patton and Ricardo Lockette.
Lockette is the dark-horse candidate for the job; he'll need to fight just for a roster spot, let alone a starting one. Williams is coming back from an ACL tear, while Manningham is still recovering from ACL and PCL tears. And he may not be healthy enough to play come Week 1.
Jenkins has shown improvement, but his skill set seems best suited for slot receiving, leaving the rookie Patton with a lot of expectations weighing on him headed into training camp.
It's important that the 49ers find someone who is capable of coming close to Crabtree's production. With only Jenkins, Manningham and Williams seeing playing time last year and just 673 snaps at that (Crabtree played 869, including playoffs), each contender should get ample opportunities to stand out in training camp.
This is a big issue presently, but by the time camp breaks, the hope is that it will become a more minor concern.