Competition at wide receiver heating up
Anquan Boldin: "The guys are putting in extra time and you see how hungry guys are and want to get better." (USA TODAY IMAGES)
The three young players lining up at split end with Michael Crabtree expected to miss most of the regular season have already impressed two veteran newcomers to the 49ers during the team's offseason program.
A.J. Jenkins was on the 49ers' roster all of last season but did not catch a pass. Ricardo Lockette spent last season on the practice squad. And rookie Quinton Patton is making the adjustment from Louisiana Tech's pass-happy offense.
But they all have taken similar approaches to getting better during the 49ers' voluntary workouts, veteran cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said.
"I see them competing every day," Asomugha said. "I don't think there's a guy that goes out there and takes plays off, which is good. So it's a really young and inexperienced group, so it's good to see them getting extra work.
"And their confidence is building, from A.J. to Ricardo, even the young rookie (Patton). Guys have come out and they're pretty confident out there. They know what they're doing, so it's been good to see."
When asked if the young receivers approach him for a cornerback's perspective, Asomugha said his new teammates have not been shy about seeking his input and advice.
"All the time, every one of them, and probably every day, they come up and they're asking questions from things that happened in practice," Asomugha said.
"What were you seeing on this play?"
"Why did you do that?"
"What did I give away?"
Added Asomugha, "So that's been good. And I see them talking with Anquan (Boldin) and other receivers, so it helps them out a lot."
Boldin is the only 49ers receiver on the practice field during the offseason program with much NFL experience. Crabtree, the 49ers' leading receiver the past two seasons, is out after undergoing surgery last week to repair a torn Achilles. Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams continue to rehab from significant knee injuries.
The only other 49ers receiver who caught a pass in the NFL last season is Marlon Moore, who had six receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown for the Miami Dolphins last season.
"There are some competitive guys," Boldin said. "I see a bunch of guys who want to make their mark and put their name out there. There are guys working hard."
And they're constantly talking with Boldin about their craft, he said.
"I've seen it," Boldin said. "Guys pull me off to the side and ask me about different things: Different releases you'd work on, just running routes and things like that. The guys are putting in extra time and you see how hungry guys are and want to get better."
The 49ers have not made any move to add another veteran receiver to the roster after Crabtree's injury. Instead, coach Jim Harbaugh has announced Jenkins, Lockette and Patton are competing at the same position so they can be evaluated and graded against one another.
"A guy like Crabtree, you don't replace," Boldin said. "He's that good of a talent. He's definitely an integral part of this offense. But when you lose a guy like that, the next guy has to step up. There are no options. There's no wait and see. Guys have to step up and make plays."