Turning Shades of Red: A.J. Jenkins and Jonathan Baldwin

Jenkins and Baldwin

The San Francisco 49ers announced today that they have traded their 2012 first round draft pick A.J. Jenkins (30th overall) to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin. Baldwin himself is a 2011 first round draft choice, taken 26th overall. Both wide-outs are considered to be a disappointment thus far in their careers.

General Manager Trent Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh had high hopes for Jenkins. However, failing to make an impact for the reigning NFC Champions, Jenkins finds himself on a team with former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. This may be the change of scenery he needed.

Jenkins appeared in five games last season (including the Super Bowl) and was targeted once all year, with a total of zero receptions. That’s correct, he laid a goose egg. This year he has played in two preseason games. He made a nice grab against the Denver Broncos, but failed to secure the ball, causing a fumble.

In the second preseason game against the Chiefs (his new team), Jenkins caught a nice pass but it was called back due to an offensive penalty. Perhaps the Chiefs liked what they saw on that pass play and it prompted them to agree for the trade. This pretty much sums up A.J.’s two year career with the 49ers.

A bust.

The biggest default or hole  in Jenkins’ game is he makes little to no effort while running his routes — especially when being bumped at the line of scrimmage. Cornerback Sean Smith would attest to that. While covering Jenkins this past week, Smith had his way.

At the line of scrimmage, Smith bumped Jenkins, causing him to lose his footing, leading him to fall by the time he completed running the route. The physicality of Smith bothered Jenkins which ultimately caused the incomplete pass. To Jenkins’ credit, he did put on a few pounds of muscle this off season but apparently the 49ers did not think that was enough.

Harbaugh claimed earlier this week that Jenkins will have “other roles” to play. Reports surfaced that Jenkins would be returning kicks on special teams for the 49ers. Now we all know that that was a hoax.

By acquiring Baldwin, the 49ers now have a big red-zone target for quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Baldwin stands 6’4, weighing 230 lbs. In his two year career, he has a total of 41 receptions for 579 yards (14.1 avg) including two touchdowns. Out of the 41 receptions, 27 have been for first downs (according to ESPN).

You add Kaepernick’s ability and Baldwin may be headed for a career year in 2013.

Baldwin was targeted a total of 47 times last season (2012). He played in 15 regular season games. That comes out to an average of 3.1 targets per game.

That will have to increase in San Francisco if the team wants him to be successful.

It will be interesting to see what type of chemistry Kaepernick and Baldwin develop, especially this late in the preseason. The 49ers are loaded with shifty slot type receivers which include Austin Collie, Chad Hall and Kyle Williams. Baldwin brings them the big body they need to line up on the outside, opposite receiver Anquan Boldin.

But let’s not assume that Baldwin is guaranteed a roster spot.

We know that Boldin and Williams (most likely) will get the starting nod. So far, receiver Marlon Moore has been starting for San Francisco in the preseason and we can assume he is assured a roster spot. There are high hopes for rookie Quinton Patton as well.

That has San Francisco with Boldin, Williams, Moore and Patton on the roster currently, leaving two spots open for the following receivers: Collie, Baldwin, Hall, Lockette, Jacobs and Osgood.

Baldwin needs to get serious and learn San Francisco’s playbook as quickly as possible. Otherwise, he may not make the final 53 man roster. Let’s not forget to mention that wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham are also expected to be back later in the year.

Shakeel Khan is a San Francisco 49ers writer for Pro Football Central