Who is leading the battle-royal to replace Michael Crabtree in the starting lineup? Offensive coordinator Greg Roman and head coach Jim Harbaugh both said it was early in the process. But both noted that 2012 first-round draft pick A.J. Jenkins is coming off of two strong practices.
Said Roman: "A.J. I thought, the last two days of last week (OTA) had the best two days he's had since I've been here. Quinton Patton and Ricardo Lockette - they're all stepping up. And it's just going to be a continuing process. We're trying to get these guys ready for training camp to come in compete and win a job. And it's happening."
How did Jenkins stand out on Wednesday and Thursday? "Oh, just made some clutch catches for us moving the ball," Roman said. "Just made plays, did all the right things, made plays when he had the opportunity. And he just needs to continue to do that."
Said Harbaugh: "Thought A.J. had his best week of football since he's been a 49er the last four days of OTAs. And he continues to build on that. ... Anybody that's going from Year 1 to Year 2, it's a great window of opportunity to improve in the kind of fashion that you'll never have again in your career. Because you're going from doing things for the first time to now everything that you do, you've already done."
Jenkins, of course, had no catches his rookie season. One of the issues was that he wasn't physically ready to clash with defensive backs and linebackers in the rough-and-tumble NFL. To that end, he spent time with quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Lockette in Atlanta this offseason, gaining strength and weight along the way.
Jenkins was listed at 192 pounds last year. He said he's up to nearly 200 pounds right now.
Harbaugh, of course, was full of praise about Jenkins last year as well, going so far as to upbraid the "scribes, pundits and so-called experts" who reported that Jenkins was struggling at practice.
"I'll go on record: A.J. is going to be an outstanding football player," Harbaugh said in July. "So far in camp and what he's done in the offseason has led us to believe nothing but he'll be an outstanding football player in the National Football League. And, yeah, I'm going to keep track of some of these names of so-called experts who were making these comments. And there's going to be an 'I told you so.' I foresee that happening."
Jenkins, Patton and Lockette are among a group of players competing to be the "X" receiver opposite Anquan Boldin this season. Others include Chad Hall, Kassim Osgood and Marlon Moore, whom I wrote about today.
Et cetera - Asked if Mario Manningham, who suffered ACL and PCL tears in December, would be ready for the regular season, Harbaugh said, "At some point." That sounds as if Manningham could go onto an injury list, perhaps the physically unable to perform list, to start the season. Manningham has been able to do light exercise but is not yet close to rejoining the team for practices.
* Harbaugh said the 49ers knew the whereabouts of all their players on this the start of the team's first and only mandatory sessions of the offseason. However, he said that a couple of players were not at the facility. He declined to reveal who was missing, although that should be obvious when practice begins at 3 p.m.
* Harbaugh indicated that second-year player Darius Fleming (knee) would not take part in the minicamp.
- Matt Barrows