One of the biggest storylines and players that have been closely tracked and followed during the San Francisco 49ers training camp and first preseason game has been the progression of A.J. Jenkins. Given that Michael Crabtree is likely out for the year and the fact that Jenkins was a no-show in his rookie season, the need for him to step up has become paramount.
So far, things have gone well for Jenkins in camp. Despite having a down day during Monday’s practice, Jenkins has drawn the praise of teammates and coaches as far as how good he has looked. He has shown to have a good pair of hands when making catches and improving his route running amongst a few things. Compared to what he showed last year, this is very encouraging.
Now performing well in training camp is one thing, but now has come the time for Jenkins to take what he has done during practice and carry it over into in-game performance here in preseason. In the 49ers first preseason game against the Denver Broncos last Thursday night, Jenkins did not do so well. While Jenkins had one catch reception for 11 yards, he fumbled at the end of his run. Jenkins also had a drop pass during the time he played against the Broncos.
It is only in-game performance that will serve to validate the improvement that Jenkins has shown to his teammates, coaches and media who are covering 49ers training camp. While it is all well and dandy that he is looking good in practice, if he can’t translate that to the games here during preseason, then he is only confirming the belief held by many that he is a waste of a first-round pick. While teammates and coaches have praised him, in the end, in order for Colin Kaepernick and the offensive coaching staff to fully trust him, his play during the games must improve.
Jenkins must also begin to improve his play during games in order for him to actually believe that he is capable of being a legitimate NFL wide receiver and one who merits significant playing time for the 49ers this 2013 season. Otherwise, he will either develop or further a mental block of being a great practice player but being an unreliable player during games. The chance to change this begins with the next preseason game Friday against the Kansas City Chiefs.