San Francisco 49er fans and reporters covering the team got their first glimpse of Anquan Boldin in a Niners uniform on Tuesday. Boldin looked impressive running routes and catching passes from Colin Kaepernick at the 49ers first open practice to the media with the receiver participating.
It’s likely that Boldin will become the No. 1 option for Kaepernick in the receiver corps with Michael Crabtree out with a torn right Achilles. Another role Boldin is taking on is becoming the leader and one of the go-to veterans on the team for questions from the young receivers on the roster.
Boldin on stepping up for the 49ers:
I guess I’m looked at as being able to step in right now and make plays. And that’s what I want to bring. I want Kaep to be comfortable. I want the other quarterbacks to be comfortable enough to, even if it doesn’t look like I’m open, just give me a chance. I’ll make a play for you.
We have to make plays. The passing game goes through us. If we don’t make plays outside, we won’t be successful as an offense. It’s definitely on us to get better as a receiver corps entirely.
While Boldin will be filling in for Crabtree as the go-to receiver, he will not be taking over as the “X” receiver in the offense. The role was filled brilliantly by Crabtree last season with 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns. Jim Harbaugh said he wants to fill the “X” role with one of the young receivers on the roster. The current leading contenders are A.J. Jenkins, Ricardo Lockette and rookie Quinton Patton.
The likely scenario will see Jenkins or Lockette emerge as the “X” receiver in the 49ers offense. Between the two they have zero NFL starts and two combined receptions in their careers, all by Lockette. Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams, who are both rehabbing injuries, will be used mostly as slot receivers this season.
Even though Jenkins and Lockette have very little experience starting as a wide receiver in the NFL, both showed dedication to get better in the offseason by working out with Kaepernick. Early in the offseason all three worked out together near Atlanta for almost two months. In fact, they even lived with each other which gave them an opportunity to study the Niners playbook together. Harbaugh is confident that Jenkins, Lockette or Patton will be able to emerge as the “X” receiver and lessen the sting of losing Crabtree.
After the Niners open practice on Tuesday, Boldin also talked about his history dealing with his own injuries and offered words of encouragement to Crabtree:
I’ve been through injuries. I know how it is. I fractured my face, tore my ACL. It can be a pretty lonely time. At times you think people forget about you. You feel unwanted at times because you’re not around guys and a lot of people don’t call anymore.
(Crabtree’s) a guy I definitely want to reach out to, and he’s definitely going to help us down the road. I pray he gets healthy quick but that he stays strong mentally.