NFC West: Gerald Carter

Ciscokid questioned during the latest NFC West chat whether or not Michael Crabtree would fit in the San Francisco 49ers' new offense. I promised to investigate.

"I do like how his skill set translates to the new offense," Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said. "They'll run a lot of quick-hitting routes where he can be big and physical, fight for the football and run after the catch with power."

Crabtree is coming off a 55-catch second season in which his numbers almost exactly matched established averages for wideouts in Jimmy Raye-coordinated offenses. The 49ers fired Raye after three games, but they ran essentially the same offense. San Francisco, like some of Raye's teams in Kansas City, had a prolific receiving tight end, which affected opportunities for wide receivers.

But there's still an expectation, I would think, for Crabtree's production to improve under new coach Jim Harbaugh. Crabtree has at times looked like a season pro, but I emerged from last season wondering what to expect from him.

"It will be a test for Harbaugh for sure from a coaching standpoint," Williamson said, "but besides developing a quarterback -- Colin Kaepernick will be great, by the way -- getting the most out of Crabtree has to be extremely high on Harbaugh's to-do list. I would like to see them add one more speed guy to the receiving corps."

Does Crabtree want to play for 49ers?

September, 10, 2009
9/10/09
4:07
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Questions, answers and observations as the 49ers prepare for their 2009 regular-season opener without first-round draft choice Michael Crabtree:
Crabtree
1. Is an agreement in sight? The evidence suggests not. Players tend to sign before missing regular-season game checks, but by now we would have seen more signs of movement. None is apparent. Crabtree's throwing session with Trent Dilfer took place three weeks ago, so I wouldn't read much into that. If Crabtree lets one game slip past without signing, we'll know he's as serious as he appears.

2. What is the holdup? It's impossible to know without trusting sources with a vested interest in how the arguments are framed. The cliche says the devil is in the details, and that is probably the case here. High-stakes negotiations for drafted rookies are about identifying which incentive terms will allow the player to maximize total value. What if Crabtree fears he could not hit those incentives in the 49ers' conservative offense? More on that in a bit.

3. Does Crabtree want to play for the 49ers? I'm starting to have doubts. The other first-round picks in this division had a hard time missing training camp practices, let alone exhibition games or the regular season. Beanie Wells traveled overnight to reach Cardinals camp without missing any more practices than necessary. Aaron Curry told reporters he had reached a breaking point after missing one week of camp. Crabtree? Not so much.

4. Why wouldn't Crabtree want to play for the 49ers? Perhaps he's been listening to Mike Singletary and Jimmy Raye talking about how they want to run the ball 60 percent of the time, more than any NFL offense ran the ball last season. The way quarterbacks Shaun Hill and Alex Smith performed during the exhibition season probably didn't help. And if you look at Raye's history as a coordinator -- see the chart below -- he's clearly serious about running the football.

(Read full post)

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