Oakland Raiders Film Room Special: Michael Crabtree

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Shiftiness for Deep Yardage

Crabtree is not going to simply burn a cornerback or safety with pure speed for a 50 yard touchdown. Occasionally, however, he can use his shiftiness to get open deep. Crabtree is actually an ideal West Coast receiver. He’s so talented at getting open underneath that once defenses scoot up and adjust to account for all the little gaps he finds underneath he can utilize West Coast classics like Sluggos, Post Corners, and “Dino” routes to catch the defenders on their heels and make space past 15 yards.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

In Week 12 SF opened with the post-corner route for Crabtree to spin nearly half the Washington secondary around. There are so many ways this play is brilliant, and Crabtree’s execution is a large part of selling the play fake. Before the snap fullback Bruce Miller was motions in from outside Crabtree at the top of the image to just off the left tackle’s hip. This contracted the defenders in the box and sold the play-action bootleg.

Crabtree comes off the line in a hard slant, immediately forcing his defender to play catch up. The slant was actually wide open, but Crabtree did such a good job in conjunction with the O-line at selling the route he has the safety flowing to the bootleg side of the play as well instead of staying at top-center. Crabtree carries the slant deep before he breaks back to the outside, turning around both defenders, and giving himself nearly half a field of open space to work with. If Kaepernick doesn’t over throw this pass it’s an easy 30 yard completion, if not possible touchdown.

Plays like this only work with strong armed quarterbacks. Luckily for Oakland and Crabtree, Derek Carr can sling it with the best of them.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

On this Week 11 play we once again get to see Crabtree shake off two defenders with a single move to get open in the deep field. Here we see him run a post route with the “dino” stem against man coverage with a safety help over the top. He starts by immediately getting inside position off the line and forcing his defender into a chase position. With the defender on the backside of his outside hip he stems his route toward the sideline, as though he’s running a fade route and trying to get separation from the safety coming across from the middle. Once he has the safety flowing his way he makes a hard jab step and breaks back inside catching the safety in complete over-pursuit. Add in seven more yards after the catch and the Niners have now dramatically improved their field position.

Considering the relatively cheap price tag and limited commitment from the team, this is a big win for Reggie McKenzie. Crabtree isn’t Randall Cobb or some other similarly priced commodity, but he’s no slouch either. Crabtree brings a veteran savvy and skilled technique to the offense that has not been seen on this team for some time. Whether Crabtree is combined with an elite rookie receiver, or given the leadership role, this corps of receivers looks a lot better with him on the roster. His skills compliment Derek Carr’s natural inclinations and Bill Musgrave’s background extremely well. It’s going to be a very exciting year to see what the Raiders offense brings to the table in 2015.