Since the news of Michael Crabtree's torn Achilles, the media has been firing off tweets, posts and videos about just who could replace the production that Crabtree would have brought to the 49ers in 2013. Most are quick to point out A.J. Jenkins due to his quiet rookie season during which he mostly rode the pine. A lot was already expected of him simply in order to show that he wasn't a bust of a draft pick.
Others take the easy route and point to Vernon Davis. Sure, he's athletic, a mismatch, and has been a huge part of the offense in the past ... but oftentimes Crabtree had good stats in those games, too. That means there's still a hole to be filled, and besides ... do we really think it's as easy as throwing the ball to Vernon more? Like defenses won't just key on him, expecting the added looks??
It's not that simple.
Then there's rookie Quinton Patton, on whom I'm very high. That didn't sound right. You know what I mean. I think Patton has the raw tools, but he may take some time to develop. We just don't know yet. He is certainly going to have a larger role than he would have before Crabtree's injury though.
So you see, I've done just what everyone else has done; I started with the obvious. Except I'm going to actually mention another viable option to step up and fill in for Crabtree, one that nobody seems to be mentioning: Kyle Williams.
I get it. The muffed punts in the NFC Championship Game two years ago. The injury last year. Those are the only things that stick in most people's minds. They use those memories to discount or dismiss Williams as someone who could carry any sort of heavy load. It's easy, but it's also lazy.
The fact remains that we don't know about the status of his knee. We know that he's already taking part in individual drills during 49ers OTA sessions, and that he posted a green light and mentioned getting good news from the doctor. Maybe he's back to form, 100% of his former self. If that's the case, I say he becomes a prime candidate to replace Crabtree.
Sure, they're not built the same. Are we trying to find Michael Crabtree's exact body and skill double? Yeah, that would solve the problem; plug-and-play, right? But that's a silly way to look at it. When your car breaks down, do you go try to rent the exact same model? Is that what everyone does because that's the best way to do it? You can't get to work unless it's a 2005 Chrysler 300 just like yours?
No, that's not what anybody does.
The 49ers need someone who can catch passes that gain yards and potentially score points. How the guy does that, the size or shape that the player comes in, the skills that he has -- those things don't matter nearly as much as: Can he get it done?
Williams has quickness, some speed, great hands, and is fearless. Anyone remember him blasting defensive lineman Will Smith with a wham block on Alex Smith's TD run vs. the Saints during the 2012 postseason?
What about the come-back route he turned into a touchdown before the Rams could even touch him?
Then there's the deep pass from Kaepernick during his coming-out party where Williams gained separation, something 49ers receivers have struggled to do down the sideline for years.
Or the touchdown against the Bills where Alex Smith trusted him on a deep come-back and he again burned two guys running into the end zone.
Go even further back to 2011 when he showed great hands and feet, extending to make a beautiful catch on a fade route to the back of the end zone, tiptoeing inbounds for the score.
Are these plays, which are among very few opportunities he had while being buried on the depth chart, not enough evidence of the kind of skills Williams possesses? For a guy with limited chances to touch the ball, he sure made the most of them. In 2012 he posted 212 yards, averaging 15.1 yards per catch, in just 11 games. Those are solid numbers for a No. 3 wide receiver, and now Randy Moss is gone, Manningham seems to still be injured, so is Crabtree, Ted Ginn is gone, etc.
Are we so sure that there's no way Kyle can step up to the plate and deliver in this time of need for the 49ers? Or are we just taking the easy way out, because he's never had the chance to be a starter, because he muffed a few punts in a big game and then got injured, because we're afraid to put faith in a guy the world doesn't believe in?
I believe. Sure, you can call me a KW homer if you like. There's a reason I like the kid. He's got talent, and it's easy to see. He's also tough, coming back from adversity numerous times. Williams was raised in a sports family, he knows how to deal with situations like this and I for one think he'll respond favorably.
Pretty soon the media, the doubters, the world might very well be saying, "Whoa! Who could have predicted that virtually unknown Kyle Williams would emerge, playing at THIS level, in the wake of Crabtree's injury?!?"
If you believe like I do, you'll then be able to say, "I did."