AJ Jenkins' Preseason Struggles Are Being Blown out of Proportion

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 13, 2013

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 26:  Wide receiver A.J. Jenkins #17 of the San Francisco 49ers in action during a pre-season game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High on August 26, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The 49ers defeated the Broncos, 29-24.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Can we all calm down about AJ Jenkins?

The 2012 first-round pick didn't record a single reception last season for the 49ers. With the injury to Michael Crabtree, the window is there for Jenkins to emerge as a target in San Francisco's passing game.

However, the San Jose Mercury News' Tim Kawakami reported that Jenkins has failed to make a name for himself in training camp:

But so far, Jenkins has done nothing with the opportunity–in practice and the first exhibition game Jenkins hasn’t seemed to prove anything to anybody, except that going without a catch as a rookie is not a good sign heading into Year 2.

He’s definitely fast. He seems bright and engaging. He did some great things in college. But… Jenkins has done nothing as a 49er, and that’s all the coaches have to go on.

Jim Harbaugh had a very blunt response after Jenkins struggled in the 49ers' 10-6 loss to the Denver Broncos, in which the 23-year-old had one catch for 11 yards. The Sacramento Bee's Matt Barrows had the quote:

Kawakami went on to explain that Jenkins' poor preseason could end up putting him out of a job.

Yes, you read that right. People are now questioning the future of a 2012 first-round draft choice because he hasn't played well through his first year and the first week of this preseason. If Jenkins were having an average preseason and making some catches, nobody would question his future.

Putting aside how San Francisco might want to avoid any egg on their face by cutting such a high selection, this Jenkins talk is absolutely crazy.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller thinks the media speculation is getting way out of hand:

There's no getting around Jenkins' atrocious 2012 season and slow start to the preseason. However, there are still plenty of practices left and three preseason games for Jenkins to get himself in the coaching staff's good graces.

All it takes is a good week at practice and a solid performance in a preseason game for everyone to say that all is right with the world. Jenkins will be on a path to earning a spot on the final roster.

Even with the 23-year-old's problems so far, you can't look past his gifts.

As the saying goes, you can't coach speed. Jenkins has that in spades. In fact, he has the physical abilities that you can't find in a lot of receivers. With his skill set, it would be unwise to give up on him too soon only to watch him succeed with a new team.

What could be the most compelling reason to keep Jenkins this season, however, is his contract. Per the Shutdown Corner's Brian McIntyre:

If the 49ers were to release Jenkins, they would owe him $1,727,391, the amount of the fully guaranteed base salaries from 2013 and 2014 that remains on his four-year, $6,947,529 contract. In terms of the salary cap, Jenkins' fully guaranteed base salary of $1,021,594 would accelerate onto the 49ers' 2013 cap, increasing his cap number this season from $1,578,984 to $2,600,578. The 49ers are currently $7.117 million under their adjusted cap number of $125.773 million. In 2014, Jenkins would eat up $1,746,374 in "dead" cap space, which is about $150,000 less than Jenkins would count against the 49ers' cap if he were on the roster.

If the 49ers are going to end up paying Jenkins that much money, they might as well hold on to him and try to get the most they can out of him.

The Illinois grad is unlikely to ever live up to being selected with the 30th pick in the draft. That doesn't mean he won't be a contributor to the 49ers' offense and a steady target for Colin Kaepernick.

Given that his toughest competitors this summer are Kassim Osgood, Austin Collie, Marlon Moore, Chad Hall and Ricardo Lockette, you have to think anything short of Jenkins taking a nap on the field will mean he still has a roster spot come Sept. 8.