Around the NFC West: Crabtree connection

Jerry Rice knows a special quarterback-receiver combination when he sees one.

He thinks he sees one developing between the San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick and Michael Crabtree.

Around the NFC West: March 27, 2013

"Crabtree and Kaepernick, they have that swagger," Rice said during Super Bowl week.

Crabtree knows it, too. The receiver spoke Tuesday on NFL Network of the superior "trust" Kaepernick showed in him, echoing comments Crabtree made before the Super Bowl.

Then as now, Crabtree was careful to say he wasn't speaking out against former quarterback Alex Smith. But there was also no denying the obvious. Kaepernick was good for Crabtree.

Kaepernick completed 63 of 92 passes for 898 yards and eight touchdowns when targeting Crabtree during the regular season and playoffs. Kaepernick targeted Crabtree 8.7 yards past the line of scrimmage on average. Seven of the 63 receptions gained 30-plus yards.

Smith completed 42 of 56 passes for 492 yards and four touchdowns when targeting Crabtree last season. He targeted Crabtree 6.5 yards past the line of scrimmage on average. And his passes for Crabtree produced two gains of at least 30 yards.

Some of the increases for Crabtree with Kaepernick could reflect changes in offensive approach as the staff played to Kaepernick's strengths. Kaepernick's rapport with other targets, including Vernon Davis, should improve as he settles into the starting role. It's easy to forget that Kaepernick has started only 10 games, counting playoffs, and he has yet to go through an offseason getting the No. 1 reps.