On Wednesday, as first reported by Mike Garafolo of USA Today Sports, the San Francisco 49ers were given some bad news as wide receiver Michael Crabtree had torn his Achilles Tendon during organized team activities on Tuesday.
No doubt the loss of a Pro Bowl-caliber wide receiver is one that can be a damper for any team, especially one with the goals and expectations that the 49ers have. At the same time, this offers the opportunity and chance for A.J. Jenkins to step up and become a productive contributor for the 2013 season and beyond.
Jenkins was drafted in the first round, 30th overall by the 49ers in the 2012 NFL Draft. Despite having been a first-round draft pick, Jenkins did not see much action during the past season and was only active for three of the 16 games. Not having been injured, many wondered why Jenkins saw no significant playing time and began to wonder what was keeping him off the field.
The truth is that it appears that Jenkins was behind the eight ball from the time he arrived and spent the whole season catching up and trying to settle in, whether it was with his conditioning or with being a NFL wide receiver.
Now with the injury to Crabtree, Jenkins has come into the spotlight as he will be expected to fill in and step up.
He has had a good start to 2013 off-season. According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rappaport, Jenkins spent eight weeks this offseason working out with and catching passes from Colin Kaepernick. Offseason work like that signals a commitment from a player who is taking his preparation to the upcoming season with the utmost dedication.
It also signals to me as a fan that he has learned what it takes to be a pro and is preparing himself to be ready to contribute by building a rapport with his starting quarterback.
With only one established healthy wide receiver now in Anquan Boldin, Jenkins will certainly get the chance to continue building a rapport with Kaepernick as well as the opportunity to be the No. 2 wide receiver on the depth chart, with Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham recovering from some serious knee injuries.
Jenkins will also have a leg up on rookie wide receiver Quinton Patton as he has already spent a year learning and practicing the 49ers’ offense and should have a very good grasp of the playbook at this point.
As a fan, I am glad to see that he put in the work during the offseason and spent time working out with Kaepernick. This initiative tells me that this is a player who wants to play, wants to contribute, and is learning from his failures and therefore growing as a professional. I hope and expect to see Jenkins ready when his number is called as he will get the opportunities and has no choice but to be ready.
Lucas Carreras is a contributing San Francisco 49ers writer for RantSports.com. You can follow Lucas on Twitter by following him @maldini3fan and you can connect and add him to your network on Google+.