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Jenkins has garnered much publicity since showing up admittedly out of shape during the rookie minicamps in May (per Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com via ProFootballTalk).
Numerous writers, pundits, and outside observers did not appreciate this showing at the outset of his NFL career.
Yet, while being a fair evaluation in the short term, it by no means reflects the type of conditioning the first-rounder has showcased since those initial camps.
Many rookies aren’t at the top of their game at the start of offseason workouts. This is especially true of high-round picks like Jenkins who go through the draft process that often takes them away from the football field.
This removal from a proper training regimen caused Jenkins to be slightly overwhelmed by the speed of 49ers’ practices. Even GM Trent Baalke acknowledged that Jenkins needed to bulk up to maintain himself at the NFL level (per Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee).
However, head coach Jim Harbaugh recently—and adamantly—noted that his receiver’s conditioning is now fully up to par and is pleased with his development.
Also, as Barrows astutely points out, the 49ers front office did not necessarily intend on Jenkins making a significant impact in his first year. Wide receiver was already a solidified position with Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, Ted Ginn and Kyle Williams in the fold.
Maiocco added that Jenkins has to earn a spot within that top five as well. I agree.
Fast forwarding to the 49ers training camp that began on July 27, Jenkins had a rather uneventful first day. He did not tally a reception in the 11-on-11 drills.
Things changed for the better on day two Jenkins made three impressive catches and ran fluid routes with Crabtree out with a right calf injury.
He then handled physical press coverage against Perrish Cox fairly well during the next practice. Many draft analysts criticized Jenkins for not possessing the requisite physicality to defeat one-on-ones. He performed decently during his first test in camp.
To the chagrin of the coaching staff, Jenkins failed to catch passes that the defense subsequently intercepted in red-zone drills during the next two practices. His performance through the first six days of camp had thus been inconsistent at best.
Jenkins' receiving skills improved in the seventh practice. On the other hand, he muffed three punts on simulated punt-return drills. It shouldn’t be entirely problematic considering he never returned punts at Illinois. He’ll remain behind Ginn, Williams, and LaMichael James on the depth chart in that capacity for now.
Finally, as Nate Stuhlbarg of CSNBayArea.com reported, Jenkins turned in his most impressive performance yesterday. He hauled in a 25-yarder high above multiple defenders on the first-team defense. Teammate Michael Crabtree made a point to acknowledge the rookie’s constant improvement.
Overall, Jenkins has been entirely inconsistent during training camp. One could even say the bad outweighs the good.
Then again, his development is ongoing and he does not need to contribute significantly in year one with the accomplished receivers ahead of him.
Jenkins will grow in time behind his tireless work ethic, positive attitude and an abundance of veteran leadership pushing him towards his potential. Still, his performance has not consistently impressed up to this point.