Everyone expected Michael Crabtree to be an instant phenom in the NFL. His college football stats are off the charts. He was two-time Fred Biletnikoff Award winner which goes to the country’s best wide receiver and a two-time All American playing at Texas Tech. He was one of the best and most talked about wide receivers we’ve seen in an NFL draft that matched the likes of Julio Jones and A.J. Green.
The difference is Jones and Green had strong-armed quarterbacks in pass-oriented offenses. Crabtree was with an at the time bust in Alex Smith who’s long ball was considered a 25-yard pass to the tight end. Not to mention the 49ers were a run first, ground and pound type of offense. A far cry from the high-powered, let’s throw the ball 65 times type of offense he had in college as a Red Raider. Needless to say, it was quite an adjustment!
Even though we saw glimpses of greatness during his time in San Francisco, it wasn’t until he crossed the bay to Oakland where he showed the league why he was a high first round pick (#12) back in 2009. In San Fran, Crabtree’s breakout season came when Colin Kaepernick was under center in 2012. That was the year Jim Harbaugh coached the 49ers to the Super Bowl, only to lose to his older brother John who coaches the Baltimore Ravens. Crabtree caught 85 passes, had 1,105 yards receiving and hit the end zone nine times; all career highs at that point.
Unfortunately for Crabtree, the following off-season he suffered a tear in his right Achilles and missed the majority of the 2013 season. In 2014 he had a very mediocre performance. In his defense, the entire organization from the owner to the towel boy was a complete disaster. That’s when the Niners began to fall apart and Crabtree was smart enough to cross the Golden Gate Bridge and head over to Oakland. This time he wasn’t a Red Raider, but an Oakland Raider.
Across the bridge, Crabtree saw something special in Oakland. His name is Derek Carr. Crabtree had been looking for a strong armed QB to get him the ball. So in 2015 as a free agent, he was signed to a 1-year deal worth a great bargain of $3.2 million for the season. Crabtree matched his career high in receptions and touchdowns during his first season in Oakland and the organization saw it fit to pay the man. He was awarded a very handsome contract worth $35 million over the next four seasons.
Crabtree has been worth every penny he’s been given and owed. With fellow stud wide out Amari Cooper on the other side, Crabtree often gets one-on-one coverage which he easily exploits to make big plays. This past Sunday he dominated the Jets secondary with three touchdown receptions.
When you watch him play, you can tell two very important things. First, is that Crabtree keeps getting better by putting in the practice time and rapport with Derek Carr. Second, is that he is completely confident and having the time of his life. Okay so maybe that’s three things, but you get the picture. This guy loves football.
Carr is the type of QB that Crabtree needs to display his skills. Crabtree has been considered the #1 option in Oakland over Amari Cooper. That may be in part to the types of defensive coverage both players draw, but it’s clear if you leave Crab on an island in single converge, your D is in for a long day.
It’s Michael Crabtree’s 9th season in the NFL and most players at his position begin to deteriorate after that many snaps. On the contrary, Crabtree is looking younger and better than he ever did with the 49ers. Trust me, I’m a Niners fan. (Insert Joke Here).
Last season with Oakland, Crabtree once again had over 1,000 yards receiving with a career-best 89 catches and eight more touchdowns. The Raiders are one of the teams many believe could replace the Patriots as the AFC representative in the Super Bowl. Crabtree and the Raiders are off to a hot start and they look really solid both offensively and defensively.
These aren’t your daddy’s Oakland Raiders anymore. The only thing that’s remained a constant in Oakland is that they still incite more suicide via penalties than Dr. Kevorkian. Head coach Jack Del Rio is very aware of this and will need to discipline his players more if they are to hold the Lombardi Trophy come February. Crabtree has been there before on the losing end of it. He’ll do his part to ensure that doesn’t happen again.