Michael Crabtree has been working hard during the offseason. He’s been working so hard in fact, that coach Harbaugh said Crabtree has the best hands of any wide receiver he’s seen. This is quite a bold statement, considering Crabtree has been working with a pass-catching trio that includes future Hall of Famer Randy Moss, Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham, and first round draft pick A.J. Jenkins. Coach Harbaugh has said that these new additions are like early Christmas presents for quarterback Alex Smith. Smith himself has even said, “I think he’s feeling really good. You come out and watch and he’s running better than he ever has since I’ve seen him”. Even with all this praise, many 49er fans are still skeptical about Crabtree, especially when looking back on his upsetting playoff performance last season. In two postseason games, Crabtree had five catches for 28 yards. In the NFC Championship Game, he had one 3-yard reception, and his longest catch of the postseason was 9 yards.
His dismal playoff performance surely won’t be forgotten, but it overshadowed a 2011 regular season that proved the No. 10 pick in the 2009 draft was starting to live up to the hype surrounding his draft status. In the final 11 games of the regular season, Crabtree had 61 catches for 742 yards and four touchdowns, which translates to 89 catches, 1,079 yards, and six touchdowns over a 16-game season. It was during this time that Crabtree had more receptions than star players such as Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Smith! This dazzling performance doesn’t skyrocket Crabtree into elite wide receiver territory quite yet, but as long as he can remain healthy for an entire offseason and regular season, he’s worthy of putting up numbers alongside some of the best receivers in the league.
Crabtree has never played in a preseason game because of his contract holdout as a rookie and previous foot injuries. Last summer, he also had his second foot surgery in two years, which caused him enough pain to miss the first two games of the season. This looks to be Crabtree’s first full offseason of workouts, and while Harbaugh doesn’t think his hands need much work, the rest of his skills could improve immensely during this time. With the opportunity to benefit greatly from a full offseason and training camp, Crabtree seems to be in his element. After all, practice makes perfect, right?