In 2016, Michael Crabtree led the team in targets with 145 while hauling in 89 catches and contributing 1,003 receiving yards according to PFR.com. Despite these impressive numbers, the offseason addition of Jared Cook might signal a decline for Crabtree, or will it?
Football history has constantly reminded us that a quarterback’s best friend is the tight end.
This offseason Cook decided against returning to the Green Bay Packers and instead choose to make a new friend in Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr. Carr was actually instrumental in the acquisition of Cook; going as far as breaking down film with Cook right from the outset.
The tight end was more of a sixth offensive linemen in the grand scheme of the Raiders’ offense last season, but with the promotion of Todd Downing, a disciple of Scott Linehan (offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys), look for this to change.
Eventhough Amari Cooper may get all the focus of opposing defenses it’s Crabtree who continues to receive the lion’s share of the attention from Carr. Often benefiting from single coverage and soft zones; Crabtree has been the backbone and the key veteran of the Raider passing game.
Thus the conundrum; The Raiders tight end was targeted 83 times collectively in 2016. In comparison, Cook alone was targeted 51 times in the Green Bay Packer s’ offense last season compared to Raiders’ tight end Clive Walford’s 52 targets.
In a singleback set the Raiders would be able to potentially field Cooper and Crabtree out wide with a combination of Clive Walford a balanced tight end, Lee Smith a blocker, and Cook the receiving tight end; the potential for something special exists.
What does this mean for Crabtree? Conventional wisdom would suggest there aren’t enough footballs to go around and with another reliable receiver on the field, Crabtree’s targets may drop.
The tradeoff however, is that this should yield a higher yard-per-catch average for Crabtree; given Carr’s history of relying on his veteran catcher for big plays.
Carr and Crabtree have put in a lot of work together and there isn’t a reason why that shouldn’t continue so when things get rough and Carr starts slinging it you can bet “King Crab” will still be there for his quarterback.