At a listed height and weight of 6’3” and 212 pounds, Jauan Jennings flashes a different look than the 49ers' other wide receivers. He’s built a little beefier with a wide frame that cuts an imposing figure to be lined up across from. This all serves to compliment his exceedingly physical mindset and competitive nature on the football field, which in college earned him a reputation as “a dog.”
This perfect match of his overpowering athleticism and will to win jumps off the screen whenever you watch any of his highlights. In his last season at Tennessee, he forced defenders into 30 missed tackles on 59 receptions, an impressive number that led the country. However, he isn’t just a presence with the ball in his hands.
In a viral clip on Tennessee Football Twitter, Jennings is lined up in the slot on a reverse run to his side. He manages to block not one, not two, but three opposing players to spring the ball carrier for 59 yards throughout the action. Now, there’s an argument the Kentucky Wildcats help him out by not making the best pursuit, yet it’s an impressive feat nevertheless. Certainly, the kind of play that Kyle Shanahan would covet from one of his wide receivers on any rushing play.
That brings us to this past Sunday when Jennings, who’s seen an uptick in playing time after Mohammed Sanu’s injury, engaged the Jaguars safety Rayshawn Jenkins as a blocker on a jet sweep to Deebo Samuel. Unfortunately, Samuel was taken down short of the first down, which on 3rd and 2 should’ve forced a tough decision upon the Niners between attempting a long field goal, going for a 4th down conversion, or punting.
Instead Jennings remained attached to his man, driving him into the turf. Jenkins didn’t appreciate this treatment and responded by ripping off Jennings’ helmet and connecting on a punch. This resulted in an automatic first down for the 49ers and an ejection for Jenkins.
Perhaps, in the not-so-distant past, like, say, Week 9, it’d be more likely that such undisciplined conduct would show up to bite the Niners and extend an opponents’ drive. Not this time, as Jennings, exemplifying true coolness under pressure, simply laughed at the jab from a man he had rendered completely hapless.
Jauan Jennings smiling at being punched is the most Jauan Jennings thing ever pic.twitter.com/VhFsKMCfYJ— zach ragan (@zachTNT) November 21, 2021
The display of control, both at blocking and of self, energized the whole team, including Kyle Shanahan, who could be seen sharing words with and dapping up Jennings as he returned to the sideline. When asked what he told him, Shanahan said, “I just told him, ‘Great job. Now put your helmet on.’”
The pleased coach elaborated, “...I saw him competing as hard as you can compete on a run play and just playing until the whistle. Obviously, the other guy got upset with him, did some things to Jauan that I was a little worried about because Jauan gets very excited.
“And I was just proud of him that he was able to keep his composure, especially after he got hit in the face with his helmet off, and for him not to retaliate because regardless of what happens, you’re not allowed to hit anyone back either. So I was just proud of him for doing that...”
With praise like that from Shanahan, I think it’s safe to say that Jennings will continue to see more game action in the weeks to come. He set career highs for snaps with 32 and 33 in back-to-back games, which, combined, nearly double his total from the first eight. Clearly, his willingness to block carries tremendous value for the team, and his impact going forward shouldn’t be discounted.
Just for fun because there’s nowhere else to share it, I want to include one more video that I found of Jennings absolutely leveling a guy in college. Clips like this make all the rigorous research worth it.