The Exhibition Season officially ends today, along with the 2010 Off Season. As of Friday morning, teams around the league will be focusing entirely on Game Number One of the 2010 NFL season. Last season will be gone and everyone will now be tied for first or tied for last, depending on one’s outlook on life.
Mike Singletary said yesterday that there are still six or seven roster spots yet to be determined for Saturday’s final cut down. Since these numbers are identical to the six or seven spots purportedly awarded to Special Teams coach Kurt Schottenheimer, we can assume special teams play tonight will occupy the central significance of an otherwise meaningless game against San Diego.
It appears that Ted Ginn will be returning kickoffs to open the season, but the punt returner has yet to be announced. Phillip Adams made a strong case to be that man in the game against the Raiders, and another solid performance tonight could get him not only that job, but a secure seat on the team bus, having CB ability as well. It was not so much that Adams returned a punt for a TD against the Raiders, but that he caught the punts effortlessly, confidently, and seemed to know what the hell he was doing. Something other contestants for that job have been mind-bogglingly clueless about.
It has been assumed for awhile that Kyle Williams will enter the returner mix when his toe injury heals, but perhaps that has changed with the emergence of Adams. It seems possible Williams will be waived and put on the Practice Squad, allowing the team to keep Jason Hill as the 5th WR and valuable ST player. If Williams is not returning punts, he has no value as a special teamer.
This would be a risky move, since Williams could be claimed by another team. That team would have to place him on the 53 man roster for the entire 2010 season, however, which might be a stretch for an unproven 6th round draft pick with a toe injury. Williams value has also declined as a slot WR guy, since it appears Michael “The Elephant” Crabtree will be taking on the slot WR role, with Ginn playing Crabtree’s normal WR position.
Losing Williams to another team would not be popular in the blogosphere. Rumor has it, though, that Singletary couldn’t give a rat’s patootie what the blogosphere thinks. Ultimately, this call seems to belong to Schottenheimer.
The Elephant, in 49er lore, has long referred to the hybrid OLB/DE pass rushing position popularized by Charles Haley in the 1980’s. Yesterday, Singletary may have shifted the meaning of that animal to refer to a large, invisible beast inhabiting the club house that no one will talk about.
The beast in question was Michael Crabtree’s slacker attitude toward training camp and pre-season games. While this is certainly a rational attitude to have, it is not conducive to team harmony. That no one had called him out on it, including the head coach who is somewhat famous for calling slacking players out, having just done so to Nate Davis the previous week, is a huge testimony to the talent level possessed by Crabtree. Any lesser player would have been booed down immediately.
And Crabtree is that good. On a team of good, some even excellent players, he still stands out as the best. A cut above. His diva leanings give pause to how long his career here in San Francisco will last. But, for this season, he will be a difference maker on offense. The Alex Smith to Vernon Davis connection is already a league wide concern for 49er opponents, but the Smith to Crabtree connection will be joining that party this year.
Two years ago, the offense had Frank Gore and nothing much else that concerned an opposing defense. In 2010, this offense will have three bona fide playmakers that will keep defensive coordinators burning the midnight oil. The long missing 49er Offense will be back! And if Ginn makes a contribution to this group, the offense could even become scary.