It’s no secret the 2017 Oakland Raiders fell short of the lofty goals they shouldered due to their incredibly successful 2016 season. Amongst this major disappointment was the play of Michael Crabtree.
2017: A Brief Look Back
The offense, in particular, struggled to maintain a shred of a resemblance to the high-powered machine they were the previous year. Just about every single player on that side of the ball regressed to some degree, offering little hope to build on. However, what little hope remained at the end of the 2017 campaign was given new life, as owner Mark Davis and Raider Nation welcomed back head coach Jon Gruden. This astonishing addition, coupled with the hand-picked staff he has already constructed, promises to return the Silver and Black to its trajectory toward greatness.
All of that aside, there are still many questions in need of answers going into the upcoming season. One of those question marks is Crabtree. “King Crab” combined with Amari Cooper to form one of the most exciting WR duos in the NFL in 2015. After an even more successful 2016 season, the sky seemed the limit for those two, and they were rapidly approaching it. Crabtree resurrected a career that had laid dormant since his breakout season across the Bay in 2012.
No. 15 went on to pay immediate dividends for quarterback Derek Carr and the Raiders, who picked him up and gave him a chance to show what he had left in the tank. In his first season with Oakland, he posted 85 receptions, 922 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns, tying career highs in receptions and touchdowns. He followed that up with a Pro Bowl-worthy (in my opinion, backed up by his stats-comparable to those who achieved the honor) 2016 season, in which he produced 83 receptions (a new career high), 1,003 yards, and eight touchdowns. He earned all of this success while lining up opposite one of the NFL’s most exciting up-and-coming receiving threats in Cooper.
Exhale… But, of course, this is a 2017 story. Coming into this past season, you could feel the anticipation of Raider Nation, as Week 1 drew near. Carr and Cooper were perennial Pro Bowlers, and Crabtree was the complimentary piece to that AC/DC puzzle. Together they fueled the fire that was the Raiders’ electrifying air assault. In the season opener in Tennessee, Crabtree and the Raiders did not disappoint. He hooked up with Carr on six of seven targets for 83 yards, averaging 13.8 yards per reception. Week 2 was a virtual replay of what Raiders fans had become accustomed to from Carr’s favorite red zone threat from the previous year. Michael hauled in all 6 of his targets for 80 yards, culminating in three touchdowns. Not to mention, another solid 13.3 average per catch.
Yes, it appeared that the talented veteran from Texas Tech University would assume and continue his role on another playoff-bound 10+ win team.
Then came the primetime Sunday Night Football matchup with the Redskins.
The NFL was dealing with the infancy of the 2017 version of #anthemprotests, and this game would not be immune. Players from both sides showed incredible unity and support for one another, which few could deny, regardless of their feelings for or against the protests. They truly seemed together and unified.
However, once the first whistle blew, and the opening kickoff soared, the evidence was clear that only one team showed up ready to play football that night. Washington dominated the Raiders, from start to finish, and Michael Crabtree was not spared. He was held to a stunningly disappointing single catch on three targets, for a total of seven yards. Flat. That one word was the only appropriate summary of the events that took place on Oakland’s side of the ball that night.
What was less evident, though, was that this crack in the façade of this once proud, strong, and confident squad, would resurface again and again until it became a canyon, devouring the 2017 Raiders and their fans’ dreams.
As for Crabtree’s performance in the coming weeks? The results were as follows:
- Week 4 @ DEN: Did Not Play (Injury)
- Week 5 vs BAL: 6 REC/8 TGTS/82 YDS/13.7 AVG/1 TD
- Week 6 vs LAC: 6 REC/10 TGTS/52 YDS/8.7 AVG/1 TD
- Week 7 vs KC: 3 REC/7 TGTS/8 AVG/1 TD
- Week 8 @ BUF: 5 REC/10 TGTS/83 YDS/16.6 AVG/0 TD
- Week 9: BYE
- Week 10 vs MIA: 3 REC/4 TGTS/40 YDS/13.3 AVG/0 TD
- Week 11 vs NE: 6 REC/11 TGTS/51 YDS/ 0 TD
- Week 12 vs DEN: Started but was ejected before registering any statistics
- Week 13 vs NYG: Did Not Play (Suspension)
- Week 14 @ KC: 7 REC/13 TGTS/60 YDS/8.6 AVG/0 TD
- Week 15 vs DAL: 7 REC/17 TGTS/39 YDS/5.6 AVG/2 TD
- Week 16 @ PHI: 0 REC/3 TGTS/0 YDS/0 AVG/0 TD
- Week 17 @ LAC: 2 REC/2 TGTS/17 YDS/8.5 AVG/0 TD
Following the statistics above, the case is clear that there were two Michaels during the 2017 season; First Half Michael and Second Half Michael.
Crab had a very productive first half of the season, despite the Raiders’ four-game losing streak, during which the offense managed to score a total of 53 points (13.3 ppg). In fact, through the first half, he still looked like the solid and reliable receiver that helped Derek Carr so often, with breathtaking sideline catches and end zone toe-drags.
The second half of the season brought about dark times for no. 15. Through the final eight games, he would gain a total of 206 yards, surpassing 50 yards in a game just twice (51, 60), being shut out against Philly in week 16, and registering a paltry 17 yards in the Raiders’ finale against their rivals (Chargers) in LA.
So, the question for the Raiders concerning their no. 2 receiver is this: Which Michael will show up in 2018? Raider Nation, the faithful followers who support the team through thick and thin, have their hopes placed on the first-half version of the talented receiver. The anxiety caused by his second-half drop-off can be relieved knowing that Gruden, Carr, and returning Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson will invest all they’ve got into providing Crabtree with the opportunity to return to greatness.