Nov 21, 2013, 4:46 PM PST
The excuses have continued to pile up for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He’s not running enough, he locks on to Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin too much, the play calling is too vanilla, the other receivers are horrible, etc. Recently, the talk was that Mario Manningham’s return would help the second-year starter turn things around. But two weeks later it’s clear Manningham isn’t the answer.
The most important and final excuse for his regression this season is that Kap’s security blanket, Michael Crabtree, isn’t able to contribute.
His favorite receiver from last year went down with an Achilles injury before the 2013 campaign started. And despite the addition of Boldin, the passing attack has floundered. Currently San Francisco holds the 32nd ranked passing offense.
Besides the 412 passing yards racked up in Week 1, the air attack has looked mediocre all season long. Kaepernick has eclipsed the 200 yard mark just once this season, and it was against Arizona’s 19th ranked pass defense. Last season he passed for over 200 yards six times in the regular season (and three more times in the playoffs).
The inconsistent quarterback play is certainly alarming considering Kap’s amazing assault on the league last year. And Crabtree’s absence is a logical explanation for the decline.
Starting from Week 11 last season (Kap’s first start), Crabtree had 65 targets and the next receiver after him was Randy Moss with 25 targets in 2012.
In 2013, Kap has leaned heavily on Davis (54 targets). And Boldin, with his team-leading 76 targets, has filled the void left by Crabtree by becoming Kap’s new favorite target.
But there has been no replacement for Crabtree’s production on third down. He was targeted 26 times on third down, and no other receiver had double digit targets last year for San Francisco. His five scores on third down were tied for most in the NFL. And his YAC has been missed, as 17 of the passes caught behind the marker on third or fourth down were converted for first downs, the most in the league.
It should also be noted that the 49ers had a top 10 return game in 2012, which gave them good field position. This year San Francisco leads the league with fair catches, and ranks 27th and 26th on kickoffs and punt returns, respectively.
Crabtree is being touted by some as the savior for the 49ers passing game. The chemistry that he has with Kaepernick is impossible to calculate and account for. Crabtree may very well be the spark that ignites this offense into a consistent force. But if he doesn’t pan out, what’s the next excuse? Maybe Kap’s Nikes were laced up too tight…
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