Colin Kaepernick’s most trusted target from last season is set to return to the gridiron Sunday when the 49ers host the Rams in a key NFC West matchup.
Michael Crabtree — who tore his right Achilles tendon during OTAs in May — was activated Tuesday. The 49ers waived third-string quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson to clear a roster spot for him.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed his plans to activate Crabtree following Monday night’s 27-6 win at Washington:
“Crabtree’s coming back this week.”
Crabtree hasn’t played since the 49ers’ Super Bowl loss in Feb., but he’s been practicing since Nov. 5.
During the 2012 regular-season, Crabtree was noted for his great hands, ability to get open and make plays after the catch.
Crabtree emerged as the 49ers’ first legit No. 1 wide receiver since Terrell Owens, hauling in 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns.
In three playoff games he caught 20 passes on 28 targets for 285 yards and three touchdowns from Kaepernick.
Crabtree’s return provides San Francisco with another red zone option along with top receiver Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis, who’ve caught all of Kaepernick’s 14 touchdown passes this season. The recently-activated Mario Manningham has eight catches on 17 targets in three games.
It shouldn’t be overlooked that departed wideouts Kyle Williams and Marlon Moore were getting open yet were seldom targeted in the 49ers’ NFL’s last ranked passing game.
Since cutting Moore and Williams — both good guys — and with rookie Quinton Patton out with a foot injury, special teamer Kassim Osgood has seen an increased role on offense as a blocker and decoy. Rookie tight end Vance McDonald has been forced to step-up as a downfield threat and option underneath.
Kaepernick notably looked for Jon Baldwin three times at New Orleans last week and connected with him in the endzone — a nice catch that was ruled incomplete.
Crabtree’s addition further opens up the offense and his eventual production should alleviate some of the criticism Harbaugh, Kaepernick and offensive coordinator Greg Roman received after back-to-back losses to the Panthers and Saints.
The 49ers now have six wide receivers on the 53-man roster: Crabtree, Boldin, Manningham, Baldwin, Osgood and Patton.