Harbaugh reveals what makes Kaepernick great
"My mindset going into this offseason was to play more anyway, regardless of Crabtree hurt or not." -- A. J. Jenkins (AP)
SANTA CLARA -- Second-year receiver A.J. Jenkins did not make any impact for the 49ers in his rookie season.
Already, he has shown more than he did in the year after the 49ers made him the No. 30 overall pick in the 2012 draft.
"A.J., I thought, the last two days of last week had the best two days he's had since I've been here," 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said on Tuesday.
Michael Crabtree, the 49ers' No. 1 receiver, will miss most of the season with a torn Achilles tendon. And Mario Manningham, last year's No. 2, is coming off a significant knee injury. When asked if Manningham would be ready for the regular season, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh answered, "At some point."
So the 49ers need Jenkins to help pick up the slack. Anquan Boldin is the clear No. 1 wide receiver. Currently, Jenkins, Quinton Patton and Ricardo Lockette are competing to replace Crabtree at split end.
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And the early signs for 2013 have been encouraging for Jenkins. Roman pointed to the 49ers' practices last Wednesday and Thursday as Jenkins' break-through performances on the practice field. Jenkins did not have a catch in his rookie season.
"(He) just made some clutch catches for us when we were moving the ball, just made plays," Roman said. "(He) did all the right things and made plays when he had the opportunity. And he needs to continue to do that."
Jenkins has worked this offseason to get stronger, including a stint of several weeks working out in Atlanta with quarterback Colin Kaepernick shortly after the 49ers' Super Bowl loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Jenkins has gained some weight to get near 200 pounds
That opportunity with Kaepernick was invaluable for Jenkins, who did not spend much time away from the field with the team's quarterback.
"The chemistry, the bond you have," Jenkins said, "it's great to be teammates off the field because you know each other personally."
The bigger issue for Jenkins was he had a difficult time adapting to the classroom requirements in the NFL. Crabtree, Manningham, Randy Moss, Kyle Williams and Ted Ginn gave the 49ers a veteran group ahead of Jenkins on the depth chart a year ago. He never caught up.
"You install, like, every single day," Jenkins said. "It's a constant install. And then if you don't know what's going on the previous day, then the next install, you're behind because you don't know what's going on. So your mind kind of wanders off a little bit."
Jenkins has a much better understanding of the offense, and he was determined to make an impact this season even before Crabtree went down with the injury on May 21. Crabtree will require at least six months of rehabilitation.
"My mindset going into this offseason was to play more anyway, regardless of Crabtree hurt or not," Jenkins said. "It's unfortunate he had the injury, but in my mindset didn't waver at all because he got hurt."
So far, Jenkins is pleased with the progress he has demonstrated. But he knows there's a lot of room to improve.
"I feel like I have up tho this point," he said. "I got to keep doing what I've been doing and be more consistent."