The San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants both have high expectations for the 2013 season. However, both teams will face a difficult road at the start of the season as they deal with offseason injuries to two key players.
49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree tore his Achilles tendon in May and is expected to miss six months. Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants star defensive end, underwent back surgery this week and will be out at least 12 weeks.
Let’s take a look at how each injury affect the team.
One of the big concerns for the 49ers following the loss of Crabtree is how it will affect the play of Colin Kaepernick, who loses his favorite target.
Including the playoffs, Kaepernick threw eight touchdowns and zero interceptions when targeting Crabtree last season. When targeting all other wide receivers, he threw just one touchdown and had four picks.
Crabtree was targeted on 40 percent of his pass routes with Kaepernick as a starter last season during Weeks 11-17. Over that span, only Brandon Marshall was targeted on a higher percentage of his pass routes.
Michael Crabtree By Starting QB
Last Season (Including Playoffs)
Kaepernick targeted Crabtree more than twice as much as any other 49ers player last season.
The difference was even more pronounced in the red zone, where Kaepernick passed to Crabtree 13 times. No other 49ers player had more than four red zone targets from Kaepernick.
One of Crabtree’s best skills was his ability to work underneath and extend plays with his legs.
His average target depth decreased from 10.8 yards in 2009 to 7.6 yards in 2012, while his average yards after catch per reception has increased from 4.1 in 2009 to 6.2 last season.
Crabtree had 451 receiving yards on throws within five yards of the line of scrimmage last season, sixth most in the NFL.
With Crabtree drawing attention underneath, Kaepernick was among the NFL’s most effective quarterbacks on deep passes last season, ranking among the top three in Total QBR (99.5), completion percentage (53.7) and yards per attempt (14.8) on throws of 15 or more yards downfield.
After a breakout 2011 season with 16.5 sacks, fourth in the league, Pierre-Paul struggled to get to the quarterback last year with just 6.5 sacks. Five of those came with four or fewer pass rushers, compared to 11.5 in 2012.
Pierre-Paul was part of a Giants defense that failed to pressure the quarterback with any consistency last year. That squad had only 21 sacks when sending four or fewer rushers in 2012 after posting 34 with such pressure in 2011.
Even before JPP’s injury, the Giants took steps this spring to address their defensive issues. Although they lost Osi Umenyiora, Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard, New York added Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson at defensive tackle as well as projected pass-rusher Aaron Curry at linebacker.
The Giants also hope that draft picks Johnathan Hankins (defensive tackle from Ohio State) and Damontre Moore (defensive end from Texas A&M) can produce, though both have questions about whether they can contribute this season.