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.
SANTA CLARA – Kyle Shanahan will retain the role he held the past nine seasons in his first year as head coach of the 49ers.
Shanahan eschewed the formality of naming an offensive coordinator because he will keep those duties for himself. Still, Shanahan made it clear that he alone will not be able to fix the 49ers’ offense.
Shanahan has assembled a supporting cast that he said makes him comfortable to delegate responsibilities whenever his attention has to be focused on something other than the team’s offense.
“I mix it up,” said Shanahan, who previously held offensive coordinator roles with Houston, Washington, Cleveland and Atlanta. “Different guys have different attributes.”
Mike McDaniel and Mike LaFleur joined Shanahan after time together on the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive staff. McDaniel is the run-game specialist, while LaFleur, the wide receivers coach, is the pass-game specialist.
Tight ends coach Jon Embree, formerly the head coach at Colorado, is Shanahan’s assistant head coach. Shanahan said Embree has a vocal role on his staff.
Moreover, long-time NFL running backs coach Bobby Turner is a trusted assistant after spending 14 seasons in Denver and four more in Washington with Mike Shanahan, Kyle’s father. Turner coached under Kyle Shanahan the past two seasons with the Falcons.
”Bobby Turner’s been an assistant head coach for our teams we’ve had in the past and anytime that I need him to take over, he does,” Shanahan said. “So it depends what period it is, depends what we’re talking about.”
The 49ers opened organized team activities last week. It was the first time the 49ers’ rookies and veterans were together on the field for offense vs. defense practices. Shanahan said it takes some adjustment for him to figure out how to best budget his time during the workouts.
“I’m used to knowing exactly where to go and what to do and I always did that from an offensive coordinator standpoint which I still do a lot of those responsibilities,” Shanahan said. “So, at times, I feel most comfortable when I go to do that because that’s something to do. But, when I pass it over to some other guys and let them do it, I find myself walking around a lot and I’m not used to that.
“It feels awkward, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think I should walk around and watch everyone and see it. I always see it on the tape, but that’s later at night. You want players to know you’re there and paying attention to everything and I usually try to cover that in meetings the next day also.”
Former NFL running back Brandon Jacobs spent one season with the San Francisco 49ers in 2012 under head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Jacobs only played in two games and gained seven yards on five carries. The results were nothing like his 5,087 yards and 60 touchdowns over eight years with the Giants.
Apparently being pushed to the bench as a 31-year-old veteran running back didn't sit well with Jacobs.
“Going somewhere where they don’t have route conversions into certain coverages was just absurd,” Jacobs said Thursday on the Tiki and Tierney Show. “They’re just running routes in the defense, getting people killed. Size and strength is what they had, and that’s why they won.
"Let’s be real. They had great assistant coaches, but Jim didn’t know what he was doing. Jim had no idea. Jim is throwing slants into Cover-2 safeties, getting people hurt. That guy knew nothing, man."
On Saturday morning, Harbaugh responded to Jacobs with a tweet to him.
Biblical advice for @gatorboyrb Let all bitterness & wrath & anger & clamor & slander be put away from you, along with all malice.— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) May 27, 2017
Harbaugh went 44-19-1 in four seasons as the 49ers' head coach. He also added five playoff wins and a trip to the Super Bowl in the 2012-13 season, the one that Jacobs played for him.