The 49ers signed Braylon Edwards in large part because they were uncertain what Michael Crabtree could give them this year.
Edwards didn’t give the 49ers much in the first two weeks of the season before knee surgery; he has four catches for 48 yards. Crabtree gave Edwards even less (1 catch) because he has been unable to shake a foot injury.
As Florio mentioned last night, Crabtree is “probable” to return to the lineup this week. Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com indicates it may initially be in a third down role as a slot receiver behind Josh Morgan and Ted Ginn.
“I don’t want to get into what the plan is, what our thinking is, or how he’ll be used in the game, or how many plays he’s going to be in, what specific routes he’s going to be running, how that effects next week,” coach Jim Harbaugh said
Even if Crabtree is No. 3 for now, the 49ers passing attack needs him badly. Morgan is serviceable, but not a difference maker. Ginn is more of a returner than a receiver.
Alex Smith has looked a little improved this season, but he has no weapons when Vernon Davis stays in to block. (Which is too often.)
The 49ers have been forced to play things close to the vest offensively thus far. On Sunday, they face a Bengals team with even more offensive questions. Win these types of games, and you can win the NFC West.
Getting help from Crabtree would make a huge difference.