Heroes aren't made in minicamp.
Reports after minicamp claim that A.J. Jenkins, the San Francisco 49ers' first-round pick, has been struggling mightily. However, this shouldn't worry fans in the slightest.
The rookie wide receiver has gotten off to a bad start, but there is still plenty of time to prove his worth since the first regular-season game isn't until September.
According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, "He had a hard time staying on his feet, fighting for position and often—very often—was on the ground after the play."
First-round picks are expected to perform at a high level right away, but given Jenkins' current situation with the 49ers, there isn't a desperate need for him to be the saving grace for this team in 2012. The receiving corps is stacked going into next season with Randy Moss, Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham outlining the passing game. With an abundance of playmakers on offense, Jenkins will be lucky to be the fifth option in the passing attack.
The Press Democrat's Grant Cohn also had a few choice words about Jenkins' performance thus far.
The Niners first round pick looked like one of the worst wide receivers on the field most of minicamp. He didn’t play with the first- or second-team offense on Tuesday, and he didn’t catch a pass in scrimmages on Wednesday. He had trouble staying on his feet all three days, which was odd considering it was a non-contact minicamp. Overall, undrafted receivers Nathan Palmer and Brian Tyms caught many more passes and made more impressive plays than Jenkins did."
Was A.J. Jenkins' poor minicamp performance a big deal?
The criticism this early on should be taken with a grain of salt considering that Jenkins has only been involved in minicamp so far.
There isn't a lot of pressure on Jenkins to be a stud right away this season, so his struggles this offseason shouldn't be alarming.
In the midst of all the struggles that Jenkins has had in minicamp, Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com reported that Jenkins has inked a four-year, $6.9M deal with the 49ers.
Jenkins has less to worry about now that his contract isn't a problem. This should be a big load off of his shoulders when the 49ers start training camp in July.
There are still over 70 days left until the season begins, which is plenty of time for Jenkins to get better and grow as a rookie.
He isn't going to start this season and his playing time will be limited, so it's pointless to worry about him not being ready right away. Jenkins has time to prove his first-round tag, and he will do that with his limited touches this upcoming season.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh will find a way to sprinkle Jenkins in the offense and put him in a position to be successful despite having limited touches. In 2011 rookie Aldon Smith was used in a similar way and proved to be an effective piece on defense. Last season Smith recorded 14 sacks even though he did not start any games. He is proof that a rookie can help his team with limited opportunities.
Harbaugh hasn't been worried about Jenkins despite his troubles so far.
According to Doug Farrar from Yahoo! Sports, Harbaugh said,
"He's very into it, very gung-ho," Harbaugh told the media on Thursday. "Very fast— fast, fast. Excellent hands. He's got the ability to get in and out of cuts with his foot speed and turn over. He doesn't get stuck at the top of routes, he's able to get out of those cuts. He's right on track. A.J. Jenkins is going to be just fine."
With contract negotiations out the way and his first taste of NFL practices, Jenkins will be more focused on getting into football shape and blasting through training camp. It also wouldn't hurt to take Jerry Rice up on his offer to run "The Hill."