How will the 49ers compensate for Michael Crabtree's injury?

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers offensive coaching staff has its work cut out for them with the loss of Michael Crabtree. How will the team compensate?

Over the last few weeks, we've had plenty of discussion about the loss of Michael Crabtree and what it means to the team. We've discussed some players that could potentially step up, and had plenty of discussion about the wide receivers.

Earlier this afternoon, 49ers.com posted an article in which they chatted with Greg Roman about his outlook for the offense this offseason, both generally speaking, and with Crabtree's absence. Greg Roman has always been one to mix and match things in the playbook. Frequently the offense finds great success, and sometimes we get bizarre plays like the fumbled pitch against the Rams deep in 49ers territory. You take the bad with the good because there is usually a lot more good than bad.

Greg Roman and the rest of the offensive coaching staff face their biggest challenge yet. The loss of Crabtree cannot be overstated. He was Colin Kaepernick's go-to guy, and did a little bit of everything for the 49ers offense. The 49ers have plenty of other wide receivers they will look to this year, but it's going to be a tall task figuring out how to attempt to replace Michael Crabtree's value to the team.

We've talked about the wide receivers plenty, but I wanted to open the floor for broader discussion and predictions. If the 49ers figure out a way to boost the offense without Michael Crabtree, what will do the trick? Is it simply a matter of Anquan Boldin taking control of the situation? Does Kyle Williams have his breakout season? Does A.J. Jenkins or Quinton Patton burst on the scene? Is Ricardo Lockette finally going to put his prodigious physical talents to use?

Or maybe the running game is where it's at. The 49ers have incredible versatility among Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James. If Hunter is healthy, that trio is as deep as any group of running backs in the league. Maybe they lean a little more heavily on the ground game? Perhaps with his athleticism coming out of the backfield, this is an even greater opportunity for LaMichael James to become a significant factor in the passing game.

I'm sure there are plenty of theories for how the 49ers offense will compensate without Crabtree. And I'm sure there are some people that think the offense struggles considerably without him. If the offense figures it out, what will be the answer?

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