Is first-round pick Jenkins ready to contribute?

Is first-round pick Jenkins ready to contribute?
December 26, 2012, 7:45 am
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A.J. Jenkins has yet to have a pass thrown his way in his rookie season with the 49ers.

The 49ers have yet to place wide receiver Mario Manningham on injured reserve, but obviously the club has a roster spot to fill after he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 49ers' blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night.

The 49ers remained one player shy of the roster maximum of 52 players for the game at New England because the club determined anybody they added would not suit up for action, anyway. And that is the question now: Would anyone they add to the roster be among the 46 players to suit up for games?

The team usually dresses four wide receivers for games, and that does not have to change with Manningham's injury. Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss are the starters. Rookie A.J. Jenkins vaults into the role as the third receiver. Veteran Ted Ginn is the only player currently on the 53-man roster who has ever returned a punt for the 49ers, so he must be active.

The 49ers also have two receivers on their practice squad: Chad Hall and Ricardo Lockette, who have seen previous NFL game experience with Philadelphia and Seattle, respectively.

It's not often that a team has two of its top four receivers go down with season-ending injuries and the next person in line is a first-round draft pick. But that's the 49ers' situation now with Jenkins being bumped up a couple spots on the depth chart after Kyle Williams and Manningham were lost to injuries. The 49ers are likely to employ more two-back and two-tight end formations instead of three-receiver sets. In fact, undrafted rookie tight end Garrett Celek has the largest role of any of the 49ers' first-year players.

The only reason the 49ers would sign a currently unemployed veteran receiver -- has the name Terrell Owens crossed your mind? -- would be if the club had zero confidence in Jenkins. After all, any receiver the 49ers signed with the intent of suiting up and playing would push Jenkins back to the inactive list.

Second-round draft pick LaMichael James got his chance as the No. 2 running back behind Frank Gore due to a season-ending injury to Kendall Hunter and Brandon Jacobs' suspension. James has 76 yards on 20 carries, but made an impact against the Patriots with a momentum-turning 62-yard kickoff return.

Jenkins has suited up for just two games in his rookie season, playing a total of 16 snaps. He has yet to catch a pass -- or even seen one thrown his way. Now, he should at least get an opportunity to step onto the field in the final regular-season game and for as long as the playoffs last for the 49ers.

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