May 29, 2012; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers first round draft pick wide receiver A.J. Jenkins (17) runs a route during organized team activities at the San Francisco 49ers training facility. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE
According to a couple outlets, 2012 first round selection A.J. Jenkins has been struggling early as a San Francisco 49er. It began with conditioning problems on his first day and it's spread to on the field performance, as well as when he gets his practice reps. There has been first-hand reports from 49ers minicamp saying he's behind, and disappointing thus far for a first round pick.
Grant Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat went as far as to label Jenkins "the biggest letdown."
A.J. Jenkins: The Niners first round pick looked like one of the worst wide receivers on the field most of minicamp. He didn’t play with the first- or second-team offense on Tuesday, and he didn’t catch a pass in scrimmages on Wednesday. He had trouble staying on his feet all three days, which was odd considering it was a non-contact minicamp. Overall, undrafted receivers Nathan Palmer and Brian Tyms caught many more passes and made more impressive plays than Jenkins did. There’s no rush for Jenkins to produce, though, because there seem to be at least four good wide receivers above him on the depth chart right now – Crabtree, Moss, Manningham and Williams.
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle even mentioned this month that Jenkins continued to display "first-year inconsistency."
It's difficult for me to formulate an argument that refutes either of their first-person eye witness accounts of the rookie. However, I do think both Cohn and Branch are jumping the gun on their assessments of the youngster. It's true that good things take time. Look at Jerry Rice, someone who also had a rocky beginning to his career that was littered with dropped passes.
Jenkins is still weeks away from his first training camp even, and guys are dropping the hammer down on him -- these are still padless non-contact practices. I think we need to give the kid some slack, considering who he's competing with at his position. Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree are basically entrenched at the No. 1 and 2 receiving spots, the team added Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams is having a strong offseason.
As far as his involvement, it's not surprising that Jenkins did not play with the first- or second-team offense considering the depth at the position.
It's the same reason LaMichael James (a very gifted high pick) isn't getting the first-team reps.
Jenkins still has a lot to learn about the offense and it will obviously take some time before it becomes second-nature to him. Right now the rookie is trying to learn from the experienced veterans around him, while attempting to lock down the timing on his routes. He is starting fresh with a quarterback he's never played a game with before, in an offense that's still unfamiliar.
The San Francisco 49ers are a Super Bowl contender with a loaded roster, so it should be hard for a rookie to steal the show. I'd be disappointed if Jenkins was ahead of Moss, Crabtree, Manningham or Williams -- so to me, this isn't a shocking development whatsoever. Jenkins has the can-do attitude that will enable him to progress as a player and person, and his career has barely begun.
The physical tools are there and this is one of the league's best coaching staffs; time and repetitions for Jenkins will make all the difference. I bet by the time training camp ends and the preseason is underway, people will be singing a much different tune about Jenkins.
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