This weekend’s preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs will be a make or break game for San Francisco 49ers wide receiver A.J. Jenkins. If Jenkins continues not to play well and he does not show any progress in his development, he could find himself at the bottom of the receivers depth chart this season.
So far in training camp, Jenkins has shown little improvement from last season. He started training camp with a leg injury, but then he made some waves with an impressive practice on August 5. However all of that was wiped away in the Niners first exhibition game.
In the preseason loss to the Denver Broncos, Jenkins had his best chance to impress Jim Harbaugh and the rest of the coaching staff, but failed to do so. The one pass he caught in the game, he fumbled. On another pass he was overthrown which led to an interception. Harbaugh’s assessment after the game was he “could have been better.”
Since Thursday’s game, Jenkins has seen fewer reps at practice. On Saturday, at the Niners Fan Fest practice, the receiver dropped a pass and lost another in the sun. Sunday was even worse as he did not have any passes thrown his way until the end of practice, catching a pass in a 7-on-7 drill. At Monday’s practice, he finally saw more throws, but they all went incomplete.
With the 49ers receiving corps decimated because of injuries, Jenkins will likely make the regular season roster, even if he does not improve. But for a 2012 first-round draft pick that played in only three games and caught zero passes last season, Niner fans everywhere are expecting big things this season. Especially with of the lack of depth on the roster at receiver.
After Michael Crabtree went down an injury, there was an open competition at the No. 2 slot for any of the young wide outs to step up and take over the starting job. A lot of people, both inside and outside the organization, expected Jenkins to take advantage of this opportunity because he is a former first round draft pick. Instead, he is playing like an undrafted rookie.
If Crabtree and Mario Manningham were not injured, Jenkins’ mediocre play so far in the preseason would have him on the bubble to make the roster. Heck, that could be said even with the injuries to both receivers. Don’t think for one second Harbaugh has to keep him on the regular season roster because of his first round status. Harbaugh didn’t feel the need to start him at all last season despite the fact the Niners had depth problems.
Luckily for Jenkins, no wide receiver has fully stepped up to claim the No. 2 spot. But with the way Marlon Moore and Austin Collie played in the first preseason game, both will likely see more action than Jenkins on Friday. Don’t be surprised if you see Collie starting with the first team offense in the second preseason game. Regardless of when Jenkins comes on the field, Friday’s game against the Chiefs could be his last and best opportunity to seize the reigns as the No. 2 receiver.