It’s hard to sound the bust alarm on AJ Jenkins quite yet. The 30th overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft recorded zero catches on one target last season for the San Francisco 49ers, and it’s certainly peculiar when a first-round selection gets virtually no work during the regular season. No denying that.
Now the white-hot spotlight is shining on Jenkins and the harsh focus has vastly increased since Michael Crabtree went down with an Achilles injury that should cost the majority of his season. Jenkins’ first crack at a starting job in 2013 went miserably, resulting in a fumble on his only reception during the 49ers’ preseason Week 1 contest against the Denver Broncos, and even his coach can readily admit that to the media.
“Uh, could have been better,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said of Jenkins’ performance, via NFL.com. “We got work to do in areas. When you turn the ball over four times, offensively, you have work to do.”
Jenkins got the highest number of snaps among 49ers receivers in the contest, receiving 39 compared to second-placed Chad Hall‘s 28, yet he still failed to impress. To keep his roster spot, Jenkins will need to beat out most of a group that includes Hall, Chuck Jacobs, Ricardo Lockette, Austin Collie, Kassim Osgood, Marlon Moore and Lavelle Hawkins. It’s rare for a team to admit sunken cost on a first-rounder just a year later, so it’s important to avoid overreacting until a couple more preseason games are under his belt.
Word out of 49ers camp — among some critiques — is that Jenkins is displaying pro-caliber speed and deep catching ability in practice, so Jenkins must display this against other teams sooner rather than later.