Wide receiver Jauan Jennings has recently emerged as one of the San Francisco 49ers key playmakers in securing the team's latest victories. In a position that has seen its share of rotation due to injuries, the receiver has answered the bell when his number's been called.
The wideout has been involved in a number of crucial plays for San Francisco. When he isn't converting on key third down plays, he's aggressively blocking for someone who is – forcing defenders to miss tackles. His physicality was on display when he had a pivotal block on George Kittle's "tight rope" 48-yard touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 13.
"Jauan's a guy that plays with a lot of energy, a lot of passion. It's one of the reasons he makes the plays he does," head coach Kyle Shanahan said of his receiver. "He's been great for us this past month, whether he's catching the ball, whether he's not. He's just a very good football player out there."
A seventh-round pick in the 2020 draft out of the University of Tennessee, Jennings was known for his competitive play-making, NCAA-leading forced missed tackles and earned recognition for being "a dog" for giving his all on every snap. However, early into his rookie season, Jennings sustained a hamstring injury and spent the entirety of 2020 on the practice squad. Despite his early set backs, the receiver has recently taken advantage of his opportunities. With veteran wideout Mohamed Sanu Sr. (knee) being placed on Injured Reserve, Jennings has seen an extended role on offense.
Prior to Sanu Sr.'s exit, Jennings averaged 10 percent of offensive snaps. Since Week 10, he's been involved in nearly 50 percent of offensive plays, including a Week 14 outing against the Cincinnati Bengals where he notched career highs in targets (5), receptions (3), yards (46) and snaps (47). One of his most impressive plays during that outing was a 25-yard reception in overtime that helped set up the game-winning touchdown. His ability to help the offense sustain drives dates back to his time with the Vols, as the wideout converted a first down on every third-down reception he had, according to Pro Football Focus.
"He really didn't have a ton of opportunities early on and now he's getting his chance," quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. "When the ball's thrown his way, the dude makes plays."
With the goals of expanding his presence, the young receiver has notched 116 yards on 11 receptions and two touchdowns so far in his first-full season in the NFL. His production is destined to grow as he continues to be a consistent contributor to the unit.
"He does bring a unique energy," offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel said. "He is the same guy every day, which is important in a marathon of a season."
"You can feel his energy out there," Kittle said. "When he is on the football field he flips a switch and it's like he is going to win or he is going to fight you trying. And I love that about him. He definitely brings a physicality."
Jennings has continued to stake a place on the 49ers roster and his maturation will continue to play a pivotal role in San Francisco's passing game. With the 49ers sights set on maintaining their postseason status, Jennings has another matchup to flex his physicality and assert his name amongst Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk against the Atlanta Falcons 21st-ranked passing defense on Sunday – whether as a key-down pass catcher, or opening up lanes yet again for his teammates.