April 27, 2012; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers first round draft pick wide receiver A.J. Jenkins poses for photos on the practice field at the 49ers headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers: It’s Too Early To Give Up On A.J. Jenkins


Aug 18, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver A.J. Jenkins (17) prepares for a game against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Think of the first time you drove to a place that you are now familiar driving to. Do you remember how you couldn’t really go as fast as you wanted because you weren’t sure exactly where you were going? I am sure that it took less time to get there as you became familiar with the drive. This is the same exact situation that A.J. Jenkins went through during his rookie year with the San Francisco 49ers.

Many people don’t realize that Jenkins got off to a slow start at the University of Illinois. Take a look at his stats:

2008 FR 11 REC 287 YDS 26.1 AVG 3 TDs
2009 SO 10 REC 123 YDS 12.3 AVG 1 TD
2010 JR 56 REC 746 YDS 13.3 AVG 7 TDs
2011 SR 90 REC 1276 YDS 14.2 AVG 8 TDs

He had a breakout season in 2011 as he was one of the most productive wide receivers in college football. A lot of his catches were on mid range routes. He showed himself to be able to generate yards after the catch also. Jenkins was a slippery receiver in college. Often times he caught the ball and got up field immediately to gain extra yards. He also was a very smooth route runner.

The 49ers’ selection of Quinton Patton has sparked many people that I have spoken with to feel that the 49ers should give up on Jenkins. That is when I go back to the analogy in the opening of this article. Jenkins is a fast receiver. He played the game fast in college. Becoming a pro receiver is a major transition. It is not something that many players excel at doing right away.

In the NFL there is more to playing receiver than just running routes and catching the football. Pro football becomes a more mental game. Receivers need to first recognize coverages when they get to the line of scrimmage. Then once the ball is snapped they have to read what the defense is doing. A lot of times defenses will disguise presnap coverage in order to fool the quarterback and receiver. Once the play starts the receiver is required to make route conversions that are dictated by how the defense is playing.

Asante Samuel is a master at fooling quarterbacks into thinking he is playing man when he is in fact playing zone. He will come up to the line like as if he is going to press the receiver which is a clear indicator of man coverage. At the snap, he will bail and run with the receiver for a bit then release to his zone, thus fooling the quarterback into making a throw that becomes an easy interception.

In addition to the coverage and route conversion comes the need to know the down/distance to go for the first down. Imagine how difficult it is to process all of this on the fly! Initially the cerebral part of the game will slow a lot of rookie players down. This was not any different for A.J.

Trent Baalke has proven himself to be a razor sharp evaluator of talent. He announced that there was a particular player that he had his sights set on prior to the draft. Most people where surprised when the card was handed in for pick #30 in the first round and A.J. Jenkins was the name that was announced. Baalke saw a balanced athlete with deceptive speed with large, soft hands.

The 2012 season should be chalked up as a learning experience for Jenkins. He did get some reps during the season but was only targeted once. He didn’t register any receptions, however he gained valuable experience. He showed some promise in the last game of the preseason by making four catches for 59 yards. One of his four catches was a twelve yard touchdown from Colin Kaepernick. The touchdown was the result of Kaepernick scrambling in the pocket, Jenkins breaking off of his route to get open in the back of the end zone and making a very nice catch.

Jenkins has worked with Kaepernick and fellow receiver Ricardo Lockette in Atlanta for most of the off season so far. The chemistry that can be developed in those workouts is invaluable. Jenkins will get to start out the season higher on the depth chart and more familiar with the offense. Expect the speed that Jenkins showed at Illinois to surface now that he has a year under his belt. The 49ers will give him opportunity to earn playing time during the preseason.

Tags: A.J. Jenkins Featured Popular San Francisco 49ers

  • loverpoint

    Baalke is a good evaluator of talent, not great. If he were great he would have taken J.J. Watts in 2011 with the #7 pick. Watts is a more complete player and has been from day one. Aldon Smith is still trying to himself at OLB. Without Justin Smith to help, Aldon did not step up he stepped back and his level of play went down without Justin.

    All I have heard about A.J. Jenkins is what Colin Kaepernick has said about him, that is that he has gotten better. That statement does not tell the fans much. On the other hand Jim Harbaugh has a secret admiration for Ricardo Lockette. Everything I hear about Patton is that he is much better than Jenkins.

    I kind of thought we would see something of Jenkins when 2 WR ( Manningham and Williams) were hurt. Yet even after 2 members of his competition were eliminated he still lost out to Chad Hall. The 49ers now have 10 members in the WR position ( not counting UDFA ) they will most likely have to eliminate 4 of those players. Jenkins will be fighting for his life with Lockette and Patton to stay on the team.

    • TURRON DAVENPORT

      Thank you for your comments. Interesting that you fail to mention how Baalke built the best offensive line in football taking Anthony Davis and Iupati. You also failed to mention how he drafted NaVorro Bowman in the third round. Look at how many of Baalke’s draft picks earn roster spots, it’s a very high percentage.

      I can’t agree with your take on Aldon Smith vs J.J. Watt. If you recall, the 49ers needed a pass rusher which is exactly what Aldon Smith is. Your comment that Aldon Smith is still trying to find himself is way off. Yes, a lot of his pressures/sacks came via the stunt w/ Justin Smith but give Aldon his respect. He has more sacks after his first two seasons than any other player ever at the same point in their career.

      As for Kaepernick simply saying that Jenkins has gotten better, what do you want him to say, that he is a future Pro Bowler and MVP? You are reaching in a major way with that one. What is it that you supposedly hear about Patton being much better than Jenkins? I seriously doubt that there is any validity to that.

      If you recall after Manningham and Kyle Williams went down, the Niners used a lot 12 personnel (2TE). Yes, Chad Hall did get a spot on the team but remember Jenkins did struggle grasping the offense. Chad Hall already had two years of experience in a similar offense with Andy Reid. Yes, the offense is very similar. Alex Smith it himself.

      AJ Jenkins is NOT fighting for his life. He is one year removed from being a 1st round pick. Do you really think the 49ers would release him already? The receivers that will make the roster are as follows: Crab, Boldin, Jenkins, Manningham, Kyle Williams, Patton. Lockette may sneak in but I don’t think he will make it. Either way, AJ Jenkins will be on the team. Your saying that he is fighting for his life is exactly what I mean when I say that some fans are giving up on Jenkins too soon.

      • goldenbaysports

        Very well stated, Turron.

      • loverpoint

        The only thing Baalke did in building the offensive line is sign FA Jonathan Goodwin who chose to go to the 49ers, Baalke did nothing to build the offensive line. The 2010 draft was prepared by Scott McCloughan, who quit/ or was fired depending on whose story you want to believe, before the draft took place all Baalke did was read the names he didn’t have time to prepare a draft. (look it up), he wasn’t even the GM at the time, that is why when he became the GM he fired Singletary and then traded away Singletaries most prized draft choice at the time Taylor Mays, He had nothing to do with the drafting of Alex Boone, Boone was a UDFA, as a FA Boone picked the 49ers. Baalkes first official draft was the 2011 draft. If you don’t believe me then look it up.

        • TURRON DAVENPORT

          It is silly to base whether or not Jenkins was a bad first round pick off of one year. Yes, he didn’t have a productive rookie campaign but that in no way means that he will be a bust. At this point I strongly disagree that Jenkins ranks behind Lockette and is #8 our 10 WRs. If you think Joe Hastings and Chad Hall are going to make the roster over Jenkins, I simply don’t know what to say to you.

          Comparing people’s belief in Baalke to people that believe George Bush sent troops to Irag for WMD is a horrible comparison. Question for you, who won executive of the year in 2011? (LOOK IT UP) It was Trent Baalke.

  • loverpoint

    I hope A.J. Jenkins does make the team, that will mean that he beat out a bunch of quality WR’s to do so. This does not and never will erase the fact that Jenkins was a poor decision as a first round pick, after all he was the only rookie WR that did not catch a ball, other practice squad players like Hall and Hastings passed him by on the depth charts when Manningham and Williams were injured . Going into camp he ranks #8 out of the 10 WR officially on the roster. Why #8, well even Chad Hall beat him out last year and from what I hear is still further along than Jenkins, As we can all see now, things have only gotten tougher for Jenkins with the emergence of Boldin, Lockette and Patton, when Harbaugh mentions Lockette amongst WR’s he likes he fails to mention Jenkins in the same sentence, the future does not look bright for Jenkins, the only thing Jenkins has going for him is that he was drafted in the 1st round and now Baalke is trying to save his reputation by forcing Jenkins to follow Kaepernick around all offseason and show up in good physical condition ( something he failed to do his rookie year )

    I don’t know which is more comical or sad, people that believe Baalke is infallible and want to justify the drafting of Jenkins , or those that believe there were WMD in Iraq and try and try and justify Bush sending the USA to war in Iraq.

    • TURRON DAVENPORT

      First of all, I didn’t say that Alex Boone was drafted. I know he was an UDFA. The 49ers chose to go after him and signed him after the draft. Yes Scott McCloughan was the GM most of the year going into the Iupatti and Ant Davis draft, however that in no way means that Baalke had nothing to do with the draft. So as the head of player personnel you actually think that Baalke was not prepared for the draft? That’s laughable.