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Will A.J. Jenkins be a weapon in 2013?
USA Today’s Mike Garafolo reported that wide receiver Michael Crabtree went down in OTAs with an Achilles tendon injury, which spontaneously occurred when the receiver went in motion during a walkthrough.
In most other ballclubs, losing a player of this caliber is a devastating blow (not to say this does not hurt San Francisco). However, the 49ers are built to endure change and do not panic when the random elements—which they know are going to occur—rear their ugly head.
As one of the deepest teams in pro football, San Francisco rests easy knowing its standby crew is ready to go.
That leads us to one of the more luring storylines this year, which is the prospective rise of Illinois flyer A.J. Jenkins. Last year’s first rounder has been snubbed by many but is now setup to cement a role for himself in this offense. However, there will likely be an adjustment period.
Despite being the organization’s top pick a year ago, Week 1 versus Green Bay in 2013 will only be the fourth regular season game he has dressed for. In three appearances (no starts), the rookie recorded one drop on one target in 37 offensive snaps played, per Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Doubters or not, the stat-less Jenkins is an auspicious talent with the potential to rip defenses as a boundary receiver (X or Z) in this modified West Coast attack. If you’re looking for an NFL comparison, the wiggly sophomore pass-catcher could develop into a Brandon Lloyd or Mike Wallace type of player.
He is bendy, light-footed and fast, with a knack for making acrobatic grabs.
In the wake of Crabtree’s injury, the 49ers will be looking to the only other first-round WR on the roster. This is an asset the team needs to begin seeing results from. The coaches have to be able to write him into the game plan as if he is another one of their valued offensive weapons.
Kyle Williams, Ricardo Lockette and Quinton Patton are also gearing up to answer the call of duty. Each one brings a unique dynamic to the game, which could all prove to be very beneficial to San Fran in its time of need. In all likelihood, it will be a committee of receivers fluctuating around Anquan Boldin, who projects to be the primary this season.
Also, as the offense continues to transform, the revamped tight end unit and dynamic running back trio will account for a lot of touches. Between these two position groups, there are five skilled offensive playmakers capable of carrying the load on any given week.
With that sort of depth and strategic flexibility, offensive coordinator Greg Roman will continue to evolve accordingly. On the field, the system, personnel and play-calling have developed, catering to the strengths of the players (See: 2012 season, Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick).
Judging by the litany of dynamic players and a self-aware coaching staff, San Fran may field one of the most balanced attacks in the National Football League. It will be a unit that features no true No. 1 WR, and thus equally utilizes the backs, receivers and tight ends, all of which innovatively contribute to both the rushing and passing game.
Not to mention, with a lot of new faces, there is little film on these guys.