Make no mistake about it, Michael Crabtree's Achilles injury is a gigantic blow to the San Francisco 49ers and their chances to get back to the Super Bowl. The time table for his return was set at about six months by doctors after his surgery. The 49ers hope that's the case but Achilles injuries can be tricky and he will need to run and cut with authority to be the impact player he was in 2012. Last season, Crabtree turned into the legitimate number one receiving option the team hoped he would when they drafted him out of Texas Tech. Losing him, and the production he brings, will be difficult replace.

The numbers themselves tell a story. Crabtree set career highs in receptions (85), yards (1105) and touchdowns (9) in 2012. In the playoffs, he was dominant catching another 20 passes for 285 yards and 3 scores. Even more telling was what Crabtree brought on third downs. He caught 32 passes and 24 of those receptions were converted into first downs. Overall, he was targeted 49 times on third and fourth down. Crabtree was also deadly after he caught the ball in 2012. His 543 yards after the catch were the fourth highest total in the league and accounted for 49.1 percent of his total receiving yards.

Crabtree had also established a fantastic chemistry with Colin Kaepernick. In the last five regular season games, he caught 35 of Kaepernick's passes for 538 yards and 4 touchdowns. According to ESPN's Matthew Berry, Kaepernick completed 68.5 percent of the passes thrown Crabtree's way with 8 touchdowns and no interceptions. Throwing to all other wide receivers, he had a 58.4 percent completion percentage with 1 touchdown and 4 picks.

So how will the 49ers go on with out their top pass catcher?

You have to remember that Jim Harbaugh and his staff are some of the top coaches in the league at game planning to their players strengths. The 49ers will continue to be a run first team, as well be creative in their schemes. But they still need someone split out wide who scares defenses.

Anquan Boldin will be thrust into top billing within the wide receiver group. He's big and strong but at this point in his career he's not much more a complimentary guy. Consider in his first seven years with the Cardinals, he averaged 83 receptions and eclipsed 100 twice. In his last three years in Baltimore. his average dipped to 62. He also did not record a 1,000 yard season during his span with the Ravens. Boldin will still make tough catches but he's not a player who will be able to break big plays or run after the catch like Crabtree can.

Mario Manningham is perfectly capable of starting opposite Boldin but will he be healthy enough to start the season? Will it take him time to get back to full speed and be the player he was prior to the injury? It could be likely the 49ers never get a Manningham at 100 percent this year. Kyle Williams is supposed to be ready for training camp but he falls into the same category as Manningham. Even though he's back, will he be anywhere near 100 percent?

The silver lining here is the ability for the younger guys to step up. The 49ers have to see what they have in A.J Jenkins and Quinton Patton. They may have no choice but to thrust them into the action early, especially Jenkins. It's hard to believe that Jenkins can go from not making a catch to playing a major role but it's not rare for wide receivers to start out slow and make a big jump from year to year. Jenkins will need to take that jump this year though, and won't have the luxury of being brought along slowly for another season.

The 49ers absolutely have to find out about Jenkins (and Patton to a lesser degree) sooner rather than later. Boldin, Manningham, and Williams may not be around in 2014. Crabtree will be in the last year of his deal at that time. It may be imperative to the future of the position for Jenkins and Patton to show they can be major parts of the offense going forward.

Ricardo Lockette is a player who has a lot of fans excited with his speed and big play ability. He spent a lot of time this off-season with Kaepernick and Jenkins which bodes well for his chances but remember, he was cut last year by Seattle and couldn't crack the lineup with the 49ers. Can he surprise? Absolutely. But speed and promise don't always translate. He didn't get off the practice squad last year and when the 49ers needed a player they went out and signed Chad Hall to play ahead of Lockette.

One would think, considering what's been mentioned above, that the 49ers will use their tight ends more in the passing game this year. Vernon Davis is an elite talent and a match-up nightmare. The 49ers went away from him in the passing game for long stretches in 2012. In the last six games of the season, Davis caught 6 passes for 61 yards and no scores. However, in three playoff games, he doubled that total with 12 catches for 254 yards and a touchdown. As long as the 49ers make an effort to get him involved, Davis will produce. They will need him more than ever in 2013.

Rookie tight end Vance McDonald will also be an intriguing option. He spent most of his time in the slot in college and the 49ers will feature him there as well. He could be called upon to make an impact early, especially if opposing defenses are keying in on Davis.

The 49ers have some further options as well with Marlon Moore, Joe Hastings and Hall but it's likely they bring in some other players to compete in camp. They have to weigh signing a vet like Randy Moss versus letting some of the younger guys develop. Moss (or another similar vet) may be able to contribute a bit but is that worth stunting the development of another player?

In the end, regardless of what paths they choose, the 49ers are a worse team that they were 48 hours ago. Anytime you remove a player like Crabtree from the equation it will hurt. It will be interesting to see how they approach the wide receiver situation moving forward. The front office has shown themselves to be on the ball and have an outstanding idea of who they are as a football team. They know, like we all do, injuries are part of the game.

So, again, make no mistake. This ship has hit some rough water...but it's far from sinking.