The San Francisco 49ers certainly could have used the likes of seventh-round pick Jauan Jennings at some points this season. The 49ers have dealt with an unprecedented number of injury designations through 11 weeks, specifically with the team's pass catchers.
George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Richie James, Kendrick Bourne and Jordan Reed have all missed at least one game this season due to either injury or being placed on the team's Reserve/COVID-19 list. In the Week 9 Thursday night matchup against the Green Bay Packers, the 49ers had just one healthy receiver on the active roster and the other designated as "questionable" heading into the contest. San Francisco was forced to call on two of their practice squad players to help fill the void of absent pass catchers.
Jennings landed on the team's practice squad after being waived ahead of the 49ers initial roster cuts. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound receiver was known for his ability to force defenders to miss, leading the nation with 29 broken tackles on 57 receptions during his senior year at Tennessee.
Despite being knocked in the pre-draft process for lacking the speed and explosiveness of some of his counterparts, Jennings' ability with the ball in his hands caught the eye of the 49ers scouting team.
"He's a seventh-rounder, and he's definitely more talented than a seventh-rounder," Adam Peters, 49ers vice president of player personnel said back in August. "But the thing about Jauan that you see, not only is he really talented, but he loves football. He loves playing. And that comes out on the film, and that comes out when you talk football with him. So we're really excited that we got him too."
Given the unknowns of this unusual NFL season, it was likely the rookie wideout would have been called upon at some point this year. However, Jennings landed on practice squad injured reserve in October in what was revealed as a hamstring injury.
"It was tough because he was doing really good in practice and definitely would have ended up helping us this year," Shanahan said. "But he pulled his hamstring really bad – as bad as anyone we've had this year. It was about a six-week injury. It's been unfortunate because he would have had some opportunities here with the way things have gone."
Despite the midseason ailment, Shanahan and Co. believe Jennings has an opportunity to not only return from injury, but make his NFL debut with the 49ers in the coming weeks. Just as we've seen so far throughout the season, the 49ers are certainly testing the "next man up" mentality in 2020.
"I'm hoping so," Shanahan said of Jennings' hopeful return. "We think about three weeks away."