SANTA CLARA -- A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James, the 49ers' top two draft picks, remain on standby.Neither Jenkins nor James has stepped onto the field during the regular season. And even with season-ending injuries to receiver Kyle Williams and running back Kendall Hunter, there is no indication Jenkins and James will suddenly be asked to fill significant roles in the 49ers' offense.The 49ers' top three wide receivers are Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and Randy Moss. Receiver Ted Ginn, the return man, will also be among the 49ers' 46 active players.In order for Jenkins to find a regular role, he would have to be the team's slot receiver in three-receiver formations. Crabtree and Manningham are both capable of playing the slot. And both have done it quite well, according to Pro Football Focus.Crabtree has lined up in the slot 96 times, while Manningham has been there for 41 snaps. Among NFL players with at least 40 plays from the slot, Crabtree and Manningham rank second and third in average yards receiving on plays from the slot.In order for Jenkins to get regular playing time, he would somehow have to nudge out Moss in three-receiver sets. And that seems unlikely.Jenkins said he has learned all of the receiver positions on the outside and the slot. And he appears to be remaining patient for his opportunity."It's the first time in my life I've ever red-shirted," Jenkins said. "Right now, I'm going to use this time to learn my craft and everything, and learn from the vets. When my number is called, I'll be ready to go."A potential role for James is a little easier to envision, but it's certainly not a sure thing, either.With Colin Kaepernick as the starter, the 49ers run the zone-read play with greater frequency. It was one of the staples of the 49ers' offense when Hunter was on the field. Theoretically, Kaepernick and James could team up for that play with Hunter unavailable.After all, Kaepernick and James ran the play very effectively during the exhibition season."Kap ran this offense at Nevada, and I ran it at Oregon," James said. "He does a lot of reads, and I ran a lot of reads at Oregon. I think the chemistry was there, just working with him each and every day in practice. And I think it helped us out tremendously."However, Kaepernick and James have not practiced the play since the end of training camp."(It's) surprising, but I haven't," James said.The reason is because James has seen almost all of his practice time since the beginning of the regular season on the scout team. He is one of the players entrusted to run the opposition's plays in order to prepare the 49ers' defense for the upcoming game."I'm a competitor. I want to go out and play and compete," James said. "But I'm smart enough to know that I still have a lot to learn. This is the NFL. This is a complex offense. There are a lot of things I don't know."Another obstacle standing in the way of James making a contribution is special teams. For most of this season, the 49ers have activated three running backs. Anthony Dixon has been active for every game because he is a core special teams player.Brandon Jacobs, who now figures to be the backup running back, has played in only one game because he does not make a contribution on special-teams coverage units. To place James among the 49ers' 46 active players in Sunday's game means the 49ers would have two running backs in reserve who do not play on the coverage units.Both Jenkins and James are trying to make themselves more versatile -- and, thus, more valuable -- by remaining after practices to work on catching punts and returning kickoffs. James is listed on the 49ers' official depth chart as the backup to Ginn at both of those spots.
First-year coach Kyle Shanahan is close to completing his 49ers coaching staff.
Shanahan will handle the duties of the offensive coordinator, the position he held with Houston, Washington and Atlanta over the past nine NFL seasons.
Robert Saleh is the 49ers' new defensive coordinator, while Richard Hightower has been hired as the special-teams coordiator.
Here's a look at the 49ers' coaching staffs under Shanahan and last season under Chip Kelly:
2017 49ERS COACHING STAFF
Position: Coach (2016 job)
Head coach: Kyle Shanahan (Falcons, offensive coordinator)
Defensive coordinator: Robert Saleh (Jaguars, linebackers coach)
Special teams coordinator: Richard Hightower (Bears, assistant special teams)
Assistant head coach/tight ends: Jon Embree (Buccaneers, tight ends)
Run game specialist: Mike McDaniel (Falcons, offensive assistant)
Quarterbacks: Rich Scangarello (Wagner, offensive coordinator)
Running backs: Bobby Turner (Falcons, running backs)
Wide receivers: Mike LaFleur (Falcons, offensive assistant)
Offensive line: Vacant
Offensive assistant: T.C. McCartney (LSU, offensive assistant)
Senior defensive assistant: Jason Tarver (49ers, outside linebackers)
Defensive line: Jeff Zgonina (N.Y. Giants, assistant defensive line)
Linebackers: Johnny Holland (Browns, inside linebackers)
Defensive backs: Jeff Hafley (49ers, defensive backs)
Offensive quality control: Taylor Embree (Chiefs, defensive assistant)
Defensive quality control: Bobby Slowik
Head strength and conditioning: Ray Wright
* * *
2016 49ERS COACHING STAFF
Position: Coach (current status)
Head coach: Chip Kelly
Offensive coordinator: Curtis Modkins (Bears, running backs)
Defensive coordinator: Jim O’Neil
Special teams coordinator: Derius Swinton
Quarterbacks: Ryan Day (Ohio State, quarterbacks)
Running backs: Tom Rathman
Wide receivers: Bob Bicknell
Tight ends: Jeff Nixon (Baylor, co-offensive coordinator/running backs)
Offensive line: Pat Flaherty (Jaguars, offensive line)
Assistant offensive line: Eric Wolford (South Carolina, offensive line)
Defensive line: Jerry Azzinaro (Cal, defensive line)
Assistant defensive line: Vince Oghobaase
Outside linebackers: Jason Tarver (49ers, senior defensive assistant)
Inside linebacker: Joe Bowden
Defensive backs: Jeff Hafley (49ers, defensive backs)
Assistant defensive backs: Roy Anderson (Bears, assistant secondary)
Assistant special teams: Michael Clay
Offensive quality control: Mick Lombardi (Jets, offensive assistant/assistant QBs coach)
Defensive quality control: Tem Lukabu
Senior analyst: Dana Bible
Director of human performance: Mark Uyeyama
John Benton, who coached on the same staff during Kyle Shanahan’s four seasons with the Houston Texans, has reportedly received permission from the Denver Broncos to interview with the 49ers.
The Broncos hired Benton on Jan. 15 to work as the team’s assistant offensive line coach under line coach Jeff Davidson.
But Denver coach Vance Joseph and general manager John Elway provided Benton permission to interview with the 49ers, Denver’s 9News reported. The Sacramento Bee was first to report the 49ers were looking at Benton.
The offensive line coach is the last major position that remains vacant on Shanahan’s staff.
Benton worked last season as Jacksonville’s assistant offensive line coach. He worked the previous 13 seasons as offensive line coach with the St. Louis Rams (2003-05), Houston (2006-2013) and Miami (2014-15).
Shanahan’s first NFL coaching job was with Houston in 2006, when he coached wide receivers. Shanahan became the quarterbacks coach with the Texans in 2007 before spending the next two seasons as offensive coordinator under then-coach Gary Kubiak.
The 49ers announced nine additions to the coaching staff on Friday.
Also, the 49ers are expected to hire Daniel Bullocks as assistant defensive backs coach, according to The Sporting News. Bullocks worked in the same role with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. The Jaguars' linebackers coach last season, Robert Saleh, is the 49ers' new defensive coodinator. Bullocks appeared in 31 games in three NFL seasons with the Detroit Lions in 2006 and '08.