Sports

Will A.J. Jenkins Start for the 49ers?

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When the 49ers bulked-up at receiver for the second offseason in a row, it was starting to seem like their 2012 first-round pick A.J. Jenkins would always be the odd-man out. Fresh off their Super Bowl defeat at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens, they pluck one of the better receivers from that game, Anquan Boldin. Not so long after that they draft Quinton Patton in the fourth round - who everyone just so happens to dote on.

Oh, and those are just the receivers that they added to this roster. That says nothing of Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham’s impending returns from injury.

Then the rigors of the NFL’s long offseason took it’s first long-term casualty in the form of Michael Crabtree and his torn achilles. He’s expected to miss a large, but vaguely undefined, portion of the 2013 season. Could actually miss the season in it’s entirety, but it’s a little early for doomsday scenarios.

Whatever the case, as is always the case, one mans injury is another’s opportunity. This time Jenkins plays the role of beneficiary. Sad, but this is often how the NFL works. It’s an opportunity Jenkins will have to take full advantage of; lord know he wasn’t handed many of these in 2012.

In his rookie campaign Jenkins saw playing time in only three games during the regular season and two during the Niners Super Bowl run in the playoffs, including the Super Bowl. In those five games Jenkins played only 47 snaps - 21 of which came in a meaningless week 17 contest against the Cardinals. Not a single pass was caught; the one time the ball was thrown at him it resulted in a dropped pass.

With a year under his belt (albeit mostly spent on the practice squad) Jenkins hopes to earn the respect of his coaches and the playing time that presumably comes along with it. If the reported six weeks spent training with Colin Kaepernick in Atlanta aren’t enough to convince them, maybe the additional time in the weight room will. There’s no exact number in terms of weight, but rumour has it Jenkins has bulked up for the upcoming season; a necessary adjustment.

To get the starting spot opposite Boldin, Jenkins is going to have to be beat out Ricardo Lockette and Quinton Patton in training camp. It’s no short order, but the 49ers didn’t invest a first-round pick in either of those two. They can be more patient with their development, where Jenkins already has the fast track.

For the first time since the Niners selected him 30th overall in the 2012 draft, the stars seem to be aligning for Jenkins. Can only hope he is taking notice.

You can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV

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