Brian and I will both be taking stabs at our Final 53s later this week. Today I wanted to focus on a player that's been giving me nothing but trouble when it comes to deciding what his fate should be: Tight end Tom Crabtree.
Most fans are familiar with Crabtree's blocking prowess from his press clippings, like this one earlier in camp from Rob Demovsky:
It was Crabtree —not Lee or Quarless — who was used as the third tight end in the Packers’ “jumbo” formation, a short-yardage package that includes three tight ends and two backs. Havner and Finley were the other two tight ends in that group during a goal-line period during Friday’s practice.
Crabtree’s blocking skills also were put to use on special teams. In somewhat of a surprising move, he was on the No. 1 kickoff return team, a unit that was put on display for the first time on Friday. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound Crabtree lined up as one of the middle protectors...
When I was at training camp, I was shocked at how well this kid was able to latch onto guys, never letting them shed, always keeping his arms inside, either from scrimmage or on special teams.
The knock on Crabtree has been his inconsistent hands and while I did see a ball or two hit the ground it appeared, at least to me, to be more a product of the young guy fighting the ball rather than a real problem with catching it. Indeed, as camp has gone on we've heard precious little about this problem area. My hunch is that, as he's settled in, he's stopped "trying so hard" and let the game come to him.
One play that I thought exemplified everything he's working on, both good and bad, can be seen below. It's easy to say "He blocks well but has trouble catching the ball" - but the position requires so much more than those two things. Look at the play (Crabtree is number 83 lined up on the right side of the line) and we'll talk:
A couple things jump out at me here, one good and one bad, that have nothing to do with blocking or catching the football.
First, watch his release. Watch how he takes his first two steps and dips his shoulder, completely avoiding the defensive end. That end is coached to tie up the tight end as soon as he sees/feels him try to release up the field. Crabtree does a fantastic job of getting a free release off the ball. Now, some of the praise here has to go to Ben McAdoo, the tight ends coach, who could be seen drilling his guys on this very technique. (As it happens, I think McAdoo is one of the real unsung heroes on McCarthy's staff.)
Then there's the bad: After Crabtree is free and crossing on his route watch how he stops ever so slightly just before Rodgers throws the ball. Now look at all the green in front of him if he just keeps running. The only reason he should sit down there is if he's running toward another defender. He's not, and Rodgers, of course, makes the correct read and expects Crabtree to keep running into the wide open space. Yes the linebacker is there, but if Crabtree just keeps his stride that's a completion. That one second pause kills the play.
These are the types of things that he will no doubt learn from after watching the film and talking to McAdoo. And there's a good chance that he ends up playing for another team in the NFL. But overall, Tom Crabtree is already a damn good football player who I think will only get better, no matter which NFL city he is in.
Here's hoping its Green Bay.
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