Friday, May 17, 2013

A.J. Jenkins muscled up this offseason

The skinny on A.J. Jenkins: The former first-round wide receiver isn't as skinny anymore.

That, of course, was the one concern general manager Trent Baalke raised on draft day last year.

Circumstances -- injuries and otherwise -- prevented Jenkins from a full offseason in the weight room while at Illinois, and as a result his strength and power weren't ideal last year. Indeed the slender receiver, who is listed at 192 pounds, seemed to spend a lot of time on the ground during practices last year.

"If there's an area where A.J.'s got to get better in, it's called the weight room, and he will," Baalke said. "He's had some unfortunate situations that haven't allowed him to fully attack the weight room in the offseason. Once he gets in there and figures out how to be a pro receiver - which we're very confident we can help him along in that area - we feel we've got a very good player. A very good fit for this system."

Nothing inhibited Jenkins this offseason. He spent six weeks with quarterback Colin Kaepernick and fellow wideout Ricardo Lockette in Atlanta where they concentrated on strength and speed training. It remains to be seen whether that work will translate to the field, but recent photos of Jenkins show a more bulked-up receiver, and the reports from Atlanta were positive as well.

Said Lockette: "I think A.J. will definitely surprise a lot of people this year. Last year, he took it as a building year. This year from what I've seen so far, it's night and day. I expect big things out of him. He expects big things out of himself, and Kap expects big things out of him. I think Niner nation and the Niner empire will be proud of what A.J. Jenkins brings to the field this year."

Said Aaron Roberts of CES Performance, which is where the group of 49ers trained: "From what we heard, (Jenkins) was not a real big weight room guy coming in, but he did a great job. He definitely showed progress."

As every 49ers knows well by now, Jenkins didn't catch a pass during his rookie season even when the team ran low on wideouts at year's end. But he has an excellent opportunity to seize a key role in the offense this year.

The 49ers' starting receivers promise to be Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin. The third receiver spot, however, is wide open. Two of the veteran frontrunners, Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham, are coming off of ACL injuries, and neither is expected to be full participants in the OTA sessions that begin next week.

Other than that, there are a handful of wideouts with little or no experience gunning for jobs. Among that group is Jenkins, Lockette, fourth-round draft pick Quinton Patton, free-agent pickup Marlon Moore, Joe Hastings and Chad Hall, who also spent time with Kaepernick in Atlanta this offseason.

The 49ers entered the 2012 season with six receivers on the roster.


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