A.J. Jenkins Must Produce in Preseason to Earn Roster Spot with 49ers in 2013

Jesse ReedCorrespondent IAugust 15, 2013

Aug 18, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver A.J. Jenkins (17) prepares for a game against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

As crazy as this sounds, second-year receiver A.J. Jenkins is legitimately teetering on the brink of being cut by the San Francisco 49ers.

Jenkins, who was the team's first-round pick in 2012, failed to catch a single pass last year, even though the 49ers had a desperate need at the wide receiver position for the second half of the season and in the playoffs.

This summer, he has repeatedly been targeted by members of the local media as a player who has failed to impress in training camp. 

Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area first stirred this particular pot when he wrote that Jenkins "has not distinguish himself in practices." After Jenkins fumbled away his only reception in the team's first preseason game, he then wrote that he didn't think Jenkins "has done enough on the field" to secure a roster spot. 

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee has also been critical of the receiver and believes his roster spot is in jeopardy. He correctly pointed out in a recent article that Jenkins hasn't been one of the top six receivers during training camp and noted his lack of value as a special teams player. 

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman recently lauded the receiver's skill set, noting his strong hands and ability to make "some spectacular catches," as noted by Maiocco. But in the end, Roman conceded that Jenkins' issue is "a matter of down-in down-out consistency."

Even more recently, NFL insider Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com added his two cents on the subject:

I could see 2012 first-round pick A.J. Jenkins getting cut. He has been beyond frustrating from everything I have heard, and this could be a case where the team just takes its losses and moves on...Cutting Jenkins would send a signal that no one there is entitled, no matter where you were drafted, and Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh have never struck me as the overly-sentimental type, anyway.

Throw in the fact that Jenkins has been getting his practice reps trimmed down recently, per Barrows, and you have a recipe for a bust salad. 

It would be understandable if Jenkins was struggling to earn playing time and the 49ers were loaded at the wide receiver position, but nothing could be further from the truth. 

With Michael Crabtree down and out for the foreseeable future with his Achilles injury, the 49ers need someone else to step up and claim his spot on the starting roster. The table was set for Jenkins to show his worth as a first-round pick, but he's consistently shown an inability to get the job done.

Cutting the second-year player won't be an easy decision for general manager Trent Baalke to make. He originally signed a four-year contract worth $6.95 million, per Spotrac.com, but $5.6 million is guaranteed. Should the 49ers cut him, the franchise will be forced to eat a bunch of money, which is never easy to stomach.

With that in mind, Baalke will likely give his guy every opportunity to prove his worth during the remaining preseason games. 

But make no mistake about it—should Jenkins continue to show up small during the games, he'll get cut. 

Remember, last year he saw one pass go his way in a regular-season game and dropped a perfectly thrown ball. Then, in his first chance this preseason, he fumbled the ball. 

Potential will only get you so far in the NFL. Jenkins must produce on the field on game days to earn the right to stay on the team's roster this season.

If he has another outing on Friday against the Kansas City Chiefs like the one he had last week against the Denver Broncos, then it may be time for the team to cut its losses and move on. 


Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78.