I have to say, it is rather impressive how quickly things turned ugly in the A.J. Jenkins discussion around the Interwebz. The 49ers "Morning Tailgate" has a compilation of various links. Although Jenkins did run some solid routes against the Denver Broncos, he fumbled on his one catch. Whether you want to blame, Jenkins, the defender or whomever, it was not going to help the perception that developed last season.
Since then, the various practice reports indicate Jenkins has seen his snap totals in practice on the decline. On the one hand, a healthier receiver corps means more players taking snaps in practice. In particular, Austin Collie is working himself further into the mix. On the other hand, if Jenkins was performing well, one would think he would be getting more snaps, or at least taking better advantage of the snaps he had.
Naturally, his fumble last Thursday, coupled with his decreased snaps in practice has one person deciding he should be cut (Scrooge), and others who offered up the notion that he is simply not looking like one of the best 53 players right now. That doesn't mean they think he will be cut, but it certainly creates the inference that maybe he should be.
Vernon Davis met with the media yesterday, and he was asked which wide receivers had stepped up thus far. His response was a little awkward, but in looking back, I'd imagine it's also a sign of his growing leadership abilities:
I really like A.J. Jenkins. He has a lot of potential. He's still learning the game. He told me yesterday, he was like, "Hey, I'm still learning." I said, "I know, it will take time, just continue to work and get better." I also explained to him that when he comes to work, he's got to be serious. You've got to be serious about this. You can't play. You've got to learn as much as can and get better and grow, not just as an athlete but as a person. He said, "Yeah, I understand." He really wants to do well. He wants to succeed and I can see it. I can tell from the way he talks to me. I think he has all the potential to do it. It's just taking him a little time, but I think he will get there and he will be prepared for the start of the season.
His comments about "got to be serious" when he comes to work seemed a little odd. He didn't go into additional detail about that aspect of things. The next question asked why it has taken Jenkins so long to put things together.
I think everybody is different. Last year was his rookie year. He's got time. I don't think we can rush him, because it's up to him change his mindset and really take off. Not only change his mindset, but really grasp whatever it is the coaches are trying to give to him, whichever role it is, and just blossom. I think he's got it in him, it's just taking him a little time.
Finally, he was asked what he liked about Jenkins' game:
He's smooth, he's fast and he wants to succeed. Those are the three main things that jump out to me. It's hard to find speed. We all know that. That's something you just can't walk into. You look at this team now, A.J. is one of the top-three fastest guys on the team. He's definitely a tremendous asset to this team.
This came a day after Greg Roman was asked about Jenkins:
Why hasn't WR A.J. Jenkins been able to put it all together?
"A.J.'s working hard. He had a couple plays the other night that he'd like to have back but he had some good plays. We're of the ilk that you come in after a game, you learn from it, you move on and you get better and that's what we're doing.
It seems like just watching practices, he has his good plays but he also has plenty of not good plays. Is it concentration? Why do you think that level of consistency just hasn't been there?
"I think A.J.'s out there competing hard. I think everybody has those plays. You got to bounce back from them. You got to get better. You got to learn from them. I think A.J. does a lot of really good things and he's just got to continue to work and get better day by day."
What do you say he does best?
What does he do best?
"I think there's a lot of things he does well, very well. I don't know that I'd pick one. He makes some spectacular catches. He's got big strong hands. Makes good catches. Is getting better with his route running. He's improving really in everything he does. It's just a matter of down-in down-out consistency. I think there's a lot of, we all need to strive to be better day in and day out, play in and play out."
As these reports about his struggles develop, the national media is picking up on it. This has national folks pushing this angle that he might find himself off the roster by the end of training camp. The most prominent is probably courtesy of Pro Football Talk, but their article (as is often the case) is a compilation of links from which they try and piece together some kind of hot take.
Although we do provide all the news that's fit to print here at NN, we all are still simply fans at heart. Even though I often take a more objective approach to my writing, I am still writing as a 49ers fan. In the case of content on A.J. Jenkins, it's frustrating having to constantly address this. Of course, impatience of fans, Scrooge and others aside, Jenkins hasn't exactly grabbed the bull by the horns. Obviously there is truth to the notion that some players take longer than others to develop. We've seen that in so many instances on the 49ers and around the league.
To be perfectly honest, I am pessimistic about the NFL future of A.J. Jenkins. I am not prepared to write him off as a bust because I don't think it's remotely reasonable to do that after one season and a somewhat disappointing second training camp. I know this won't step some people from doing it, but what are you gonna do, right?
Heading into Friday's game against the Chiefs, A.J. Jenkins has another chance to make something of himself. A strong performance won't convince everybody, nor should it. As Roman said, one of Jenkins biggest issues is consistency. If he can put together a remotely decent performance on Friday, the next step would be doing it a week later against the Vikings.
Of course, there is still the other issue of aggressiveness. From a purely fan standpoint, observing him last week, it just seemed like Jenkins plays in an almost passive manner. Greg Roman mentioned how he liked the look in Vance McDonald's eye heading into last week's game. He described it as a sort of steely-eyed look. I don't know whether or not he got the same look from A.J. Jenkins, but given what we've seen, my confidence is not exactly inspired.
This is as much a stream of consciousness type of post as anything else. It's hard for me to formulate too much more specific an opinion, other than to accept that he is totally and fully replaced Alex Smith as the player getting the most backlash.
Whether it's fair or not one year in, it's the reality of the situation. It annoys me to no end because I just want to see Jenkins go out there, take care of business and become a decent receiving option for the 49ers. We have three more preseason games to see what Jenkins can do before the regular season gets here. Regular season is what matters, but if he does not take a step forward the rest of the preseason, how can we expect to see anything come the regular season?
As for the notion that A.J. Jenkins would get cut if he continued to struggle? I suppose anything is possible, but it would still catch me off-guard to see Jenkins released when the 49ers cut down to 53 players. I think there is a certain ego to it, but I also just can't see Harbaugh and Baalke cutting him loose this soon. Maybe I'll be proven wrong, but I just don't see it happening.
And so, for now....