San Francisco 49ers: Michael Crabtree

The Film Don't Lie: 49ers

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
A weekly look at what the San Francisco 49ers must fix:

The 49ers enter their bye week licking their wounds, physical and mental, after Sunday night's 42-17 thumping at the Denver Broncos.

The Niners receivers should spend their time off standing in front of a JUGS passing machine, catching ball after ball after ball. Or track down Lester Hayes or Fred Biletnikoff across the bay and borrow some old-school Stickum in time for their next game, Nov. 2 against the St. Louis Rams at Levi's Stadium.

Of course, Stickum is now illegal, but the 49ers' pass-catchers were dropping passes nonetheless.

Especially receivers Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis. The trio combined for four drops, per Pro Football Focus, with Crabtree clanging two.

Particularly galling was the normally sure-handed Boldin, quarterback Colin Kaepernick's Mr. Dependable, dropping one in the end zone that hit him in the hands on third-and-goal from the 4-yard line midway through the second quarter.

If Boldin holds on to the ball, the 49ers creep to within 14-7. Instead, they had to settle for a 22-yard Phil Dawson field goal, and the rout was on.

Asked specifically about the drops after the game, coach Jim Harbaugh evaded the question.

"The Broncos played a great game," Harbaugh said. "They really were good and better at every phase and played a heck of a ballgame."

And if you're scratching your head over that particular answer to that specific of a question, imagine Harbaugh's reaction watching his receivers drop catchable passes.
If Vernon Davis is unable to play in the San Francisco 49ers’ NFC West divisional matchup at the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday due to injuries to his left knee and ankle, quarterback Colin Kaepernick will have not only lost his security blanket at tight end, but his primary scoring threat.

Consider this: Since the start of last season, only three different 49ers receivers have caught a touchdown pass from Kaepernick -- Davis (15 TDs on 91 targets), Anquan Boldin (7 on 142 targets) and Michael Crabtree (2 on 44 targets), per ESPN Stats & Info.

And in that same time frame, every other team in the 32-team NFL has had at least six different players with a TD catch.

Earlier in the week, coach Jim Harbaugh said he thought the 49ers “dodged a bullet” with Davis’ injury, which occurred when he was rolled up on by Chicago Bears linebacker Jon Bostic after being tackled on an 8-yard reception with about 10 minutes to play in the 49ers’ 28-20 loss on Sunday night.

But Davis has not practiced this week and was limping badly around the locker room on Thursday, days after he needed crutches to get around.

Asked Wednesday if he thought Davis would play this weekend, Kaepernick shrugged.

“I’m not going to talk on another man’s injury,” Kaepernick said.

Then let the stats do the talking, because the last wideout to catch a Kaepernick TD pass other than Boldin or Crabtree was Randy Moss in Week 15 of the 2012 season.

Kaepernick has thrown 177 passes to players other than Davis, Boldin and Crabtree over the past two seasons without connecting for a TD.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- A week after his arrest for domestic violence, and without formal charges filed against him, defensive lineman Ray McDonald is active and expected to start for the San Francisco 49ers in their season opener at the Dallas Cowboys Sunday.

The 49ers are already down three starters in the defensive front seven in nose tackle Glenn Dorsey (left biceps), inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman (left knee) and outside linebacker Aldon Smith (nine-game league-mandated suspension).

Also active is receiver Michael Crabtree, who missed practice Wednesday but was limited Thursday and Friday and listed as questionable to play on Friday.

Right guard Alex Boone, who ended his holdout on Monday, is active, though it is unknown if he will start. Joe Looner handled the position in the preseason.

Here are the 49ers’ inactives: QB Josh Johnson, WR Quinton Patton, CB Chris Cook, C Marcus Martin, RT Anthony Davis, DT Quinton Dial and DT Tank Carradine.
San Francisco 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree, who sat out Wednesday with a calf issue, returned to the practice field Thursday in a limited capacity.

Dallas native Crabtree, who is gearing up for a homecoming against the Cowboys, dealt with a sore hamstring in training camp.

Also, cornerback Chris Culliver (ankle) and tight end Vance McDonald (hamstring) appeared on the 49ers' second injury report of the season as both practiced limited.

Right tackle Anthony Davis (hamstring) and rookie backup center Marcus Martin (knee) both missed practice for the second consecutive day. Martin has essentially been ruled out for six weeks after being injured in the third exhibition game, and Davis' streak of 64 straight starts is in jeopardy.

Davis underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason and said after camp broke he did not need an exhibition game to play in the season opener.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers released their first injury report of the 2014 season on Wednesday and receiver Michael Crabtree, who missed more than two weeks of training camp with a hamstring issue, was the big name on it with a calf injury.

Rookie backup center Marcus Martin (knee) and right tackle Anthony Davis (hamstring) also sat out practice.

Martin suffered his injury in the 49ers’ third exhibition game, against the San Diego Chargers, and is expected to be out at least six weeks. Davis, meanwhile, is still rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery -- he did not play in an exhibition game -- but the hamstring is a new development.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Three San Francisco 49ers players appear in the #ESPNRank project between Nos. 60 and 51 among offensive players. That part of the rankings was released Friday.

Receiver Anquan Boldin was No. 54, a year after being No. 83.

“Boldin led the NFL in third-down receptions (33), receiving yards (529) and first downs (529) last season,” according to ESPN Stats & Info. “His 1,179 receiving yards in 2013 were the most by a 49er since Terrell Owens in 2002.”

Left guard Mike Iupati was No. 53 (he was 32nd last year) and receiver Michael Crabtree was No. 51, improving from No. 78.

“Crabtree’s drop percentage has gone down each year of his career (3.2 percent last season),” ESPN Stats & Information wrote. “He averaged a career-high 7.0 yards after the catch (per reception) last season despite coming off an Achilles injury.”

Other 49ers players already listed: right tackle Anthony Davis, who was No. 81 among offensive players. Strong safety Antoine Bethea (No. 97), linebacker Ahmad Brooks (No. 74) and free safety Eric Reid (No. 71) are in the rankings of defensive players so far.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Strong safety Antoine Bethea, who suffered a concussion last Sunday, practiced Friday while wearing the noncontact blue jersey over his uniform, seemingly confirming San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh’s take from earlier in the day.

“I think that’s likely that he would be cleared to play Sunday,” Harbaugh said. “But I don’t think we’re going to play him on Sunday.”

The 49ers play host to the San Diego Chargers at Levi's Stadium in each team’s third exhibition game. Bethea suffered a concussion in the second quarter of the 49ers’ 34-0 loss to the Denver Broncos.

Bethea came to the 49ers as a free agent after eight seasons and two Pro Bowl appearances with the Indianapolis Colts.

In other injury news, right tackle Anthony Davis suited up fully for practice for the first time since undergoing offseason shoulder surgery. He told reporters earlier this week that he did not have to play in an exhibition game to be ready for the 49ers’ season opener Sept. 7 at the Dallas Cowboys. Davis has not missed a game in his four-year career.

Also, linebacker Patrick Willis (stinger) was still wearing the blue jersey, as was nose tackle Mike Purcell (unknown).

Receiver Michael Crabtree was back after being in Texas for the birth of his son Michael III on Monday.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- With his résumé and skill set, Stevie Johnson has the credentials to be a No. 1 receiver on many teams in the NFL. So yeah, there's a reason the San Francisco 49ers acquired him in a draft-day trade.

It's just that with Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin already on the roster, Johnson being Colin Kaepernick's go-to guy was not the team's motive when it shipped a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2015 draft to the Buffalo Bills for him.

Rather, Johnson was brought in for depth and he is competing with Brandon Lloyd, Quinton Patton and fourth-round draft pick Bruce Ellington to be the 49ers' third receiver, even if they seldom used three-wideout sets last season.

“I'm pretty sure everybody already knows the bulk of it will be with Crab and Boldin,” Johnson said Wednesday. “So we're just fitting in right after them.”

In fact, to make his case more appealing, Johnson has worked at all three receiver spots in camp.

“[I'm] not necessarily thinking who's going to be out there in certain personnel [groups],” he said, “just, whenever you get your opportunity, let's make it work. Because that's what we're all thinking. We have a lot of great players, a lot of good players that can make plays.

“Everybody can't be on the field at once. So there's going to be times when you're called upon and just, hopefully, you show up.”

That's exactly what Johnson, a seventh-round draft choice of the Bills out of Kentucky in 2008, did with three straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons from 2010 to 2012. That's something not even Hall of Famer Andre Reed did in 15 years with the Bills.

Johnson averaged 79 catches, 1,041 yards and eight TD catches in those years, before missing four games last season and finishing with 52 catches for 597 yards and three touchdowns.

“I think we definitely understand how he can fit in," 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said of Johnson. “I really believe ... that we just need to keep working to develop the level of chemistry that we want.

“Really happy to have Stevie and I think he'll bring a lot to the table. Have a good feel for his skill set. I love his energy out there and just us as a unit need to continue to work every day to develop that chemistry.”

49ers practice report

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Before being pulled off Levi’s Stadium’s loose grass field less than an hour after practice began by coach Jim Harbaugh, the San Francisco 49ers did go through the paces for a bit in front of a couple thousand fans.

A few highlights, then, of the 49ers' final public practice.
  • Wide receiver Michael Crabtree was still not in attendance, as he was in Texas the day before for the birth of his son Michael III.
  • Even before the public practice was cut short, the poor condition of the field was obvious, from divots flying out when players made cuts to the discolored spots in the middle of the field. And if Bruce Ellington tweaking his right ankle in a one-on-one drill with cornerback Chris Culliver was not proof enough, then Stevie Johnson taking a spill untouched on an out pattern at the goal line and jerking his left leg sealed it.
  • Phil Dawson, one of the more accurate kickers in NFL history, continued to work on his craft after missing a pair of field goals in Sunday’s 34-0 exhibition loss to the Denver Broncos by kicking numerous field goals. If Andy Lee was not holding, then Dawson had a metal holder in his place so he could work solo.
  • Ellington, LaMichael James and veteran Anquan Boldin were the three players fielding punts.
  • Cornerback Tramaine Brock picked off McLeod Bethel-Thompson on a pass intended for David Reed on the right sideline and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Colin Kaepernick’s salary cap-friendly contract extension was constructed that way, in part, to help free up money for the San Francisco 49ers to lock up other key cogs on the roster.

But with right guard Alex Boone’s holdout waged on, the 49ers quarterback was asked if he would like for some of that money to go to Boone.

“I think that’s something that the front office, that’s their decision,” Kaepernick said. “For me, I tried to do something where we gave them space to be able to get players back now. Who they sign and what they do with it is really up to them.”

Coach Jim Harbaugh would not touch the topic.

“As always, we don’t talk about contracts publically,” Harbaugh said. “Rarely do we talk about it in any form or fashion. We don’t feel it’s in anybody’s best interest to do that.”

While starters like running back Frank Gore, receiver Michael Crabtree, left guard Mike Iupati and cornerback Chris Culliver are entering contract years, Boone was signed to a four-year extension on Dec. 8, 2011, that runs through the 2015 season. Boone did not take part in any of the team's offseason activities and is subject to a $30,000 a day fine, per

The 49ers have more than $8.2 million in salary-cap space, per ESPN Stats & Info.
Examining the San Francisco 49ers' roster:


Because of heavy competition elsewhere, the 49ers will likely only carry two quarterbacks. They finished last season that way. The competition will be to see if undrafted rookie Kory Faulkner can take McLeod Bethel-Thompson's spot on the practice squad.


The fact that the 49ers drafted Hyde in the second round and Lattimore is healthy means some tough decisions will have to be made. Hunter is too valuable to let go. That means 2012 second-round pick LaMichael James will have difficulty making the roster.


The 49ers are so much deeper here this year than last. That means they will likely have to keep six receivers. Lloyd may look good and Patton has too much potential to give up on. That means it could be tough for Kassim Osgood to make it even though he is a special teams cog.


If Davis ends his holdout, I can't see the 49ers keeping more than three tight ends because of the glut at receiver. Unless Garrett Celek has a big camp, he may be in trouble. Carrier intrigues the 49ers because of his size and speed.


Assuming Boone ends his holdout, this is a pretty nice group of eight players. It's improved from last year. A solid veteran like Adam Snyder and a promising youngster like Ryan Seymour will have trouble making the team.


This is another power spot. It's deep. Players like Jerod-Eddie and Dial are too valuable to cut. Ramsey has looked good and I have a hunch the 49ers may like him too much to expose him to the waiver wire. That means Demarcus Dobbs could be in trouble.


Most teams carry six linebackers but the 49ers are stacked here, especially with NaVorro Bowman out for about half the season. Because fifth-round pick Lynch is promising he should make the roster. Dan Skuta is an excellent player, but there might not be any room for him. I could see him being one of those later-summer Trent Baalke trade specials because he has value.


This unit is in flux, but I see Johnson making it. Don't be surprised if there is some in-camp jockeying as the 49ers look for the best mix.


Ward, the 49ers' first-round pick, will play nickel cornerback as a rookie, but projects long term as a safety. Ventrone and Spillman should stick because they are great on special teams. Craig Dahl could be in trouble.


This group is set and it's excellent.
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NFL Nation's Bill Williamson examines the three biggest issues facing the San Francisco 49ers heading into training camp.

The holdouts: The 49ers, fresh off three straight trips to the NFC title game and seemingly poised for another long postseason run, have the weathered many storms this offseason.

Yes, there are some issues that still linger. The 49ers do not know if tight end Vernon Davis and/or guard Alex Boone will continue their holdouts into training camp.

Both players stayed away from voluntary workouts, and then became official holdouts when they did not report to mandatory minicamp last month.

Both Davis and Boone want a new deal. There are indications Boone will stay away until he gets a new contract. Davis has wavered, but he could also miss a chunk of camp.

Both players are key to the offense and would be missed. The 49ers would have to rely on youth at both spots if the holdouts linger. Vance McDonald would play for Davis and Joe Looney would play for Boone. Neither player is the caliber of the player they’d replace.

Aldon Smith: The 49ers head to training camp not completely sure of the future of the standout pass-rusher. The 49ers are set to start training camp next Wednesday. Two days later, Smith is set to be sentenced for pleading no contest to three felony gun charges. He could face some jail time.

He could also be facing an NFL suspension. If Smith is out, the 49ers will need to find some more pass-rush help, and that’s what training camp will be for. Dan Skuta and Corey Lemonier helped the 49ers go 5-0 last season when Smith was in a treatment center. The team also drafted Aaron Lynch in the fifth round. If these players show a pass-rush burst in camp, that will make the 49ers feel better about the prospect of playing a long chunk without Smith.

New firepower: The 49ers have big potential on offense. Training camp and the preseason will be a time for the unit to gel and figure out the best approach to use all of the talent. The receiving crew is beefed up with addition of Stevie Johnson, through a trade with Buffalo, veteran Brandon Lloyd and fourth-round pick Bruce Ellington.

The depth of this season’s receiving group is light years ahead of last year’s unit. The thought of Johnson being the No. 3 receiver behind Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree is silly. Ellington, a South Carolina product, gives the 49ers an element they missed last season -- a burner who can take the top of the defense.

At running back -- the heart of the 49ers’ offense is still the ground attack -- Frank Gore will have second-round pick Carlos Hyde and Marcus Lattimore, who appears to be healthy after missing last season while recovering from a 2012 torn ACL.

Hyde has looked great as a runner and receiver in the offseason. The second-round pick from Ohio State has a chance to make a big impact.

All of these new weapons of course, should help the overall game of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is entering his second full season as a starter.

The 49ers have big capabilities on offense, but the real work begins now.
A major topic for the San Francisco 49ers this offseason has been the team's plans to attempt to pass more in 2014.

They certainly have reason for trying to reach that goal. The 49ers have the best passing game weaponry since head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman joined the franchise in 2011.

The difference this year is that the 49ers are expected to have a healthy Michael Crabtree from the start of the season and they traded for the reliable Stevie Johnson.

The task for the team is to pass more and spread the ball around more often than they did the first three seasons under Harbaugh. This is the breakdown of the top three receivers for the 49ers in the past three seasons:

2013: Anquan Boldin 85 catches, Vernon Davis 52, Bruce Miller 25.

2012: Crabtree 85, Mario Manningham 42, Davis 41.

2011: Crabtree 72, Davis 67, Kyle Williams 20.

This is Johnson’s catch output in Buffalo in the past three seasons:

2013: 52 (second on team).

2012: 79 (first)

2011: 76 (first)

Johnson will likely be the fourth option for quarterback Colin Kaepernick behind Crabtree, Boldin and Davis (if he ends his holdout). Is that a problem? I think the 49ers, who rely on the run, will find a way to spread the ball around.

Someone should always be open. I think it’s natural to think the 49ers’ passing numbers will increase, although the end result may be that all the top options catch 50-70 passes instead of the major disparity seen during the first three years of the Harbaugh era.
Alex Boone's contract could be a long storyline for the San Francisco 49ers this summer.

The 49ers start training camp practices next week. Boone is not expected to report without a new contract.

Unlike fellow minicamp holdout, star tight end Vernon Davis, Boone appears bent on staying away until he gets a new deal. Davis recently said it wouldn't be the “end of the world” if his holdout doesn't result in a new deal. Both Boone and Davis have two more seasons remaining on their contracts.

How did we get to this point with Boone?

Really, this has been developing ever since the 49ers signed the guard as an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State in 2009. From that point on, he was working his way up financially.

In 2011, the 49ers gave Boone a five-year $8.04 million deal when he was a backup tackle. On one hand, it was a nice deal for a former undrafted player who overcame off-field issues. In reality, Boone signed a deal for a backup player.

In the past two seasons, Boone has developed into a top guard in the NFL. He is a leader of the 49ers and, at 26, his best football is ahead of him. Thus, he has far outplayed a deal that was designed for a backup.

Yes, he's under contract, but he hasn't signed a sweetheart deal yet. Davis, 30, has gotten a big pay day. He is the third highest-paid tight end in the NFL. Boone is the 43rd highest guard in the NFL. It would be difficult to find a scout who doesn't think Boone is a top-10 guard.

At this point, I bet Boone would take top-15 guard money. Yes, the 49ers have other looming contracts (receiver Michael Crabtree and guard Mike Iupati are entering the final seasons of their deals and the team is considering giving tackle Joe Staley a new deal), and no, they don't believe in tearing up existing deals.

But the truth is, Boone is working on a deal signed when the team had entirely different expectations of him as a player. That's why there is an impasse a week away from the start of a season in which Boone is supposed to be entering his prime as a top-notch guard.

49ers' biggest key to success

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
The San Francisco 49ers are well positioned to remain as one of the NFL's elite franchises over the next three years.

The 49ers have advanced to the NFC Championship Game the past three seasons, cementing themselves as a top franchise. In the next three years, the 49ers should be in good shape because their roster is deep and young.

And it all centers around quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

The key for the 49ers' success in the next three seasons starts with the quarterback. Kaepernick, 26, hasn't even entered his prime. He has started just 29 NFL games.

Earlier this offseason, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh predicted Kaepernick, who signed an extension through the 2020 season in June, would have a breakout season in 2014.

Kaepernick has tremendous skill as a passer and as a runner, but he needs to improve his accuracy and read progressions.

Kaepernick is a tireless worker, coachable and should continue to make strides. The 49ers are well equipped to help make Kaepernick better because they have a strong supporting cast.

The key is to try to extend the contract of receiver Michael Crabtree, who is Kaepernick's favorite target. Crabtree is entering the final year of his current deal. The 49ers are excited about second-year receiver Quinton Patton and fourth-round pick Bruce Ellington. They also have Stevie Johnson for the next three years. If Crabtree is re-signed, the 49ers should continue to be stacked at receiver.

At tight end, second-year player Vance McDonald needs to make strides as a receiver, especially with Vernon Davis being 30 and his contract ending after the 2015 season. The ground game looks set for the future with rookie Carlos Hyde and 2014 fourth-round pick Marcus Lattimore.

All of these weapons will make Kaepernick better and ensure the 49ers get as much as they can from him as he enters his prime.