Crabtree moves the chains


Crabtree moves the chains

Michael Crabtree was too high a draft choice for a very long time. Now, it may turn out that he was taken too low. Its all in how you choose to define his job.

I would like to be thought of as a football player, the 49er wide receiver said after what might arguably be his best game as a pro, rather than just as one category.

That question came after the 49ers 27-19 win over Detroit on Sunday Night Football, when he asked yet again if he thought of himself as a possession receiver. He doesnt want to be considered a possession receiver, for the same reason that Alex Smith isnt crazy about game manager, but it isnt the terminology that matters. Its the definition.

Crabtree caught six of the seven balls thrown his way Sunday night, and though the 67 yards he gained doesnt ring any fantasy bells, he:

Helped set up the 49ers first touchdown drive with a 21-yard catch on a first-and-10 at the Lion 38.
Set up the first David Akers field goal with a short reception on a third-and-seven.
Set up the second field goal with a 13-yard catch on a second-and-four at the Detroit 33.
Set up the final touchdown with three third-down conversions, on third-and-seven, 14 and nine.

That wasnt possession receiving. That was receiving that extended or enhanced possessions. And if you think possession receiver is still a pejorative, well, youre just not going to get it ever.

Crabtree started his career in San Francisco slowly, losing two years to injury and offensive-challenged philosophies that never could figure out what his gifts were. He was drafted in the 10-spot in 2009, wasted two seasons in the Mike Singletary era, then bloomed in his way as Smith bloomed in his.

Now he is the teams second most important receiver behind Vernon Davis, and if he isnt Jerry Rice-esque, he does a pretty decent early career imitation of Fred Biletnikoff. Not so much stylistically, as Biletnikoff was stealthier, but as the solution to some bad down-and-distance predicaments.

In short, he moves chains five of his six catches went for first downs, and while he still fretted about the one he dropped on a third-and-five early in the second quarter, he more than made his bones on a cranky night with cranky opponents.

Crabtree had been scapegoated pretty well as either a bad pick (which he wasnt) or as a pick the 49ers didnt know what to do with (which he was). His toughness was questioned constantly, as injuries extended long past peoples frustration levels, and though he was never truly a bust, neither was he a home run.

But Harbaughs gift is that he knows how to size up talent and find what it can do, rather than curse it for what it cannot, and he found in Crabtree someone who could precise routes, catch balls in traffic and, well, move chains. He is not the home run hitter that makes your jaw drop, but he is the receiver every good team must have if it doesnt want to wear out its punters foot.

And there is no reason to think he cannot become something else in the years to come. He has already remade himself once, after all.

But for right now, he is a possession receiver in the best sense of the word. He more than merely fits an offense that works, even if it doesnt effervesce. He is becoming a pro at a job that should be considered sexier than it is, and if you must use the phrase, use it properly. Because possession is a team statistic, and frankly, someones got to do it.

For now, on this team and for the foreseeable future, that is Michael Crabtree. Maybe he can make it a phrase that can be used for good, the way Smith used game manager.

Long supports Eagles teammate, wraps arm around him during anthem protest


Long supports Eagles teammate, wraps arm around him during anthem protest

Chris Long supported his teammate, Malcolm Jenkins, Thursday night by wrapping his left arm around Jenkins, who continued to raise his right fist in protest of racial injustice during the national anthem prior to the Eagles' preseason game against the Bills at Lincoln Financial Field.

Long's intention Thursday night was not immediately known. While he's been outspoken on Charlottesville, Virginia, he did not specify how he would conduct himself during the anthem.

Long and Jenkins both publicly criticized President Donald Trump's response to the racial tensions that resulted in the tragic violence and the death of Heather Heyer last weekend in Charlottesville, Long's hometown.

Last Sunday, Long touched on his comments by speaking to reporters, reiterating his disappointment in President Trump's response to the violence in Charlottesville, where white nationalists held a "Unite the Right" rally in protest of the removal of a statue honoring Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

"Some people are tired of hearing me tweet because they want me to stick to football but I like to use social media like I was a regular guy because I think I am," Long said Sunday. "I don't tell people to stick to their job when they want to talk politics. And this isn't political. That's the thing. Everybody is trying to turn this political. This isn't a political issue. This is right or wrong. I believe you're on one side or the other. For me, being from Charlottesville, no one wants to see you sit idly by and watch that stuff happen and not say anything. And I wish there was more categorical denial from some very important people in this country who have had the opportunity to strike it down but didn't."


Practice report: 49ers passing game looks much improved


Practice report: 49ers passing game looks much improved

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers’ passing game has ranked 29th or lower in each of the past four seasons.

If two practices against last year’s No. 1-ranked pass defense are any indication, the 49ers could be vastly improved under coach Kyle Shanahan and quarterback Brian Hoyer.

“I think our guys were expecting to do good,” Shanahan said on Thursday after a second joint practice against the Denver Broncos in two days. “There’s a lot of stuff we can clean up. A lot of stuff we can do better. But I think our guys were happy with how they competed and, hopefully, that can continue to carry over.”

Hoyer hit more higher-percentage passes on Thursday. He teamed up with rookie Victor Bolden on his deepest completion -- down the left sideline against first-team All-Pro cornerback Chris Harris. After completing better than 80 percent of his passes against the Broncos a day earlier, Hoyer was 12 of 19 passing on Thursday.

Pierre Garçon, who figures to be Hoyer’s top target, was not as active during Thursday’s practice. But he did find himself in the middle of the action with a tussle against Harris.

Hoyer’s red-zone pass intended for slot receiver Jeremy Kerley was tipped and intercepted by safety Justin Simmons. Away from the action, Aqib Talib blocked Garçon, who retaliated by tossing him to the ground.

“That’s part of the game,” Garçon said. ‘You always expect one scuffle in joint practices. But it ended and you move on. It was nothing personal at all.”

Hoyer was especially sharp during the practices to strengthen his grasp on the team’s staring job. Meanwhile, rookie C.J. Beathard had a solid showing on Thursday. He will enter Saturday’s game after Hoyer and could play through the rest of the first half and open the third quarter.

The 49ers exited the field after their two most-significant practices feeling optimistic about where things stand.

“We did good the first day,” Garçon said. “We could’ve done better the second day. But we’re still learning each other and getting better. We still have a lot to do to get ready for the regular season, but we’re moving in the right direction.”

--Linebacker Reuben Foster wore shoulder pads and took part in all but the contact drills due to what the team described as a “mild AC joint sprain” of his right shoulder. That did not prevent Foster from getting into the middle of a skirmish that appeared to involve Broncos tackle Menelik Watson and 49ers linebacker Eli Harold.

The 49ers expect Foster to play Saturday night, Shanahan said.

--Linebacker NaVorro Bowman was pulled from practice on Thursday after experiencing soreness in his shoulder. Shanahan said Bowman's shoulder soreness is similar to what Foster experienced.

--The Broncos’ offense, which struggled to complete passes on Wednesday, made a lot more plays down the field on Thursday with Paxton Lynch at quarterback.

--Tight end Vance McDonald made an outstanding catch of a Hoyer pass at the sideline against tight coverage from safety Will Parks.

--The 49ers’ practice Thursday brought an official end to the team’s training camp. They will transition to a regular-season type of schedule next week leading up to the team’s third exhibition game, which is scheduled for Sunday at the Minnesota Vikings.

“Training camp is over, and what that means is we’re not all staying in dorms together and we’re not having night walk-throughs,” Shanahan said.