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Crabtree Will Make Things Difficult At Cutdown Time

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Crabtree Will Make Things Difficult At Cutdown Time

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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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (27) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

bomdad's picture

Dont keep him at the expense of Donald Lee. That would be a big mistake to cut a vet like Lee and keep all the guys who have never played all 16 games. That reeks of limited playbooks and predictability.

PackersThad's picture

I'm a big Crabtree fan!! I hope he makes the team...What are the possibilities of us trading Donald Lee??

PackerAaron's picture

I would be shocked if they cut or traded Lee. I would also be shocked if they kept 5 tight ends. But this IS a team that kept 3 fullbacks. Anything could happen...

DaveK's picture

Is Havner really a lock for the 53? He is a ST's stud and proved last year to be an adequate replacement for Lee/Finley but if they think Crabtree and Quarless have the potential to be an above average TE's then maybe you keep both over Havner. I guess it depends if they think Crabtree can perform this year if Lee or Finley go down. If yes, then because of potential upside Crabtree is your #3 and the project Quarless is on the 53 but inactive most games. Havner might be the odd man out. My guess is that they don't quite trust Crabtree to replace Lee/Finley if needed and they keep Havner. They try to stash Quarless on the PS hoping another team isn't going to put someone so raw on their 53 this close to the season.

RockinRodgers's picture

In that clip, Rodgers should have thrown that ball to Finley. This Rodgers guy....I don't know.

NyPacker's picture


dilligaff's picture

If Kuhn can perform as the emergency 3rd running back, Then I would like to see the pack keep 2 running backs and keep a player like Crabtree.

Lee should not be cut or traded, unless he gets the pack a solid safety.

IMO the Packers don't have a healthy 3rd back better than Kuhn.

We always can call on A. Green to come back in a pinch if need be.

packsmack25's picture

I don't think Ahman would be available til after Thanksgiving.

PackerAaron's picture

Ahman is in the UFL with the Roughriders! Yeehaw! :)

packsmack25's picture

I hate that play in Madden. I much prefer the 4 wideout shotgun look with Grant leaking into the flat.

Cole's picture

I really hope we keep quarless, he's the next finley.

PackerBacker's picture

But we have Finley, we need a backup for the veteran Lee, who is a more than capable blocker.

dgtalmn's picture

I'd like to see Crabtree kept, maybe slip into the Practice Squad, but he just might be picked up by another team would be my fear. As stated before, some of these will be easy and some really tough calls to go to 53.

PackersRS's picture

If it comes down to Crabtree or Lee, who do you take?

If it comes down to Crabtree or Hall, who do you take?

If it comes down to Crabtree or Johnson, which I think it will, who do you take?

dilligaff's picture

You sum things up well. I think it is hard to ignore Johnson's pancaking ability come Dec in Green Bay. He becomes even more valuable if the Pack gets home field advantage in the playoffs.

PackerBacker's picture

I agree, where (if anywhere) is our offense weak? In spots where we only need 1 or 2 yards. That's when you need to have a few big guys on your 53 who can push the pile. That's why I like keeping Johnson around. He can blow that shit up.

bomdad's picture

Has anyone seen it up close?

Mr. Bacon's picture

Are you Detriment to see it up close?

SpiderPack's picture

Its Determined, I remember reading an intro/coverage article on The Crabman about 3-4wks ago when he was owning everyone on the D(including Matthews-he got a bunch of Hurrahs! from teammates). I believe it was a G. Bedard article.

Cuphound's picture

After the quality of Corey's rants, one of the reasons I love Cheesehead TV is posts like this. I learn so much about football here.

SpiderPack's picture

Oh yeah.

dilligaff's picture

Crabtree is a good problem and easy decision because we are solid in the TE position, but is that roster spot better used to keep enough players for depth in our defensive secondary, or for that matter keeping another defensive lineman if we keep Harrell just in case his back gives out?

SpiderPack's picture

Seems to me we have no one to keep for true depth in the secondary (for the 1st 6 wks), unless we TRADE!!

PackRat's picture

Crabtree looked good on ST (both return and cover, staying in his lane) and has long-term written all over him. Quarless looked lost on special teams but his separation at the line of scrimmage and ability to get downfield is Finley-esque and bodes well for his future. Havner and Lee fill roles that, while important (especially because both are VERY consistent), are replaceable if needed. My prediction (since I don't think any can escape to the practice squad based on the Indy exposure) is the trade Aaron does not believe will happen. Lee as part of a package for a CB or for a draft pick.

SpiderPack's picture

Aaron, are you sure that D end was not reading (or misreading) on a play he was heading for in the backfield, be it RB or QB, & trying to shed Crabtree? I honestly can't tell. I'm a HUGE Crabtree fan BTW.

Oppy's picture

Q: What's got two thumbs and was the early-outset driver of the Crabtree bandwagon?

A: This guy!

Seriously, though, I'm glad to see that others have jumped on board. The Packers could certainly reap the benefits of having not only a better-than-adequate blocking TE, but one who can at times be dominate in the run blocking game. Dude plays on every ST squad, as well. That sounds like MM's type of "Packer People"- Committed work ethic, not afraid to "stick his nose in there", smart, tough.

jeremy's picture

Aaron, Maybe you could post a clip of Crabtree blocking Jerry Hughes on the Packers stretch TD to the strong side. Hughes was a very high draft pick and Crabtree made him look real bad.

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