A.J. Jenkins has turned heads the past days of 49ers training camp. Colin Kaepernick has enjoyed the progress, but wants the second-year wideout to keep it going.
"He has looked good," Kaepernick said of his offseason throwing buddy. "We expect more though. We need him to step up."
Kaepernick was direct with his assessment of Jenkins' growing play-making ability.
The passing tandem has made strides ever since Jenkins returned to training camp after missing three practices last week while nursing an undisclosed injury. Kaepernick targeted Jenkins early and often in Monday's camp session. The 49ers wideout delivered with impressive catches on contested routes.
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A day after Jenkins hauled in a 70-yard touchdown reception – the longest play of training camp to date – the young wide receiver caught a handful of intermediate routes from Kaepernick.
"I'm just trying to do what I can to help this team win," Jenkins said. "I'm trying to do my part."
As Kaepernick pointed out, Jenkins' part has grown in the 49ers offense. Injuries to key weapons like Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham mean more opportunities for young wideouts like Jenkins to earn more playing time in 2013.
Jenkins understands the nature of competition and is not dwelling on the ongoing battle with teammates looking to become one of Kaepernick's primary targets.
"We're all trying to make plays for this team," Jenkins said. "If the ball is thrown our way, we have to go get it. That's what we're here to do."
For his part, Jenkins is becoming a contender to start Week 1 based on his growing confidence. It stems from his improved knowledge of San Francisco's offensive system.
"I feel real good," the 6-foot, 200-pound wideout said. "I feel a lot better than I did last year at this time, but I feel great, I feel comfortable in the offense and so we'll see what happens."
Jenkins' speed has been a key to his game ever since the 49ers selected him in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
It continues to be a strength, as noted by the team's No. 1 wideout, Anquan Boldin.
"Whenever you have guys who can stretch the field and take the top off a defense it allows other guys to work underneath, intermediate routes," Boldin said. "I haven't always had that, but it does help."
Boldin said he sees a lot of "burners" on the 49ers roster. When asked to name them, Jenkins' name was first out of the 11-year veteran's mouth.
Jenkins' name appears to be on everyone's mind these days.
It'll only pick up as the team approaches a Thursday night preseason debut against the Denver Broncos. Jenkins' playing time will be discussed, but the receiver himself is more concerned with the upcoming camp sessions.
"Honestly, every practice, my mindset is I don't want to wait until the game to be ready, I want to be ready for the practices," he said. "I don't want to wait until Thursday comes around and I'm trying to get ready, I'm doing that right now at camp."