Jim Harbaugh today said the 49ers will place wide receiver A.J. Jenkins "in some additional roles" this week, specifically kick returner. Jenkins has taken more snaps in the last two preseason games (77) than any other 49ers wide receiver but only has one catch, and he fumbled immediately after that reception.
Harbaugh did not say whether Jenkins' offensive snap count would diminish, but the fact that the 49ers want to see what he can do on special teams implies the coaching staff is trying to figure out the former first-round pick's value.
Indeed, many of the receivers with whom Jenkins is competing for a roster spot have special teams value, including Kyle Williams and Chad Hall, both of whom also can return punts, as well as Marlon Moore and Kassim Osgood, who can play on coverage units.
The team's unofficial depth chart lists LaMichael James, Williams, Hall and Perrish Cox as the kick returners. Jenkins returned 38 kickoff in three seasons at Illinois and had a 96-yard return for a touchdown as a freshman in 2008.
Asked if Jenkins' draft status or the salary-cap ramifications of cutting him factor in as far as whether he makes the team, Harbaugh said, "Things factor in, but it's longstanding -- football hasn't changed since the inception. The best players make the team."
Harbaugh said that the pecking order at wide receiver remains fluid despite the fact that players entered the last two games in roughly the same order. Anquan Boldin and Moore were the starters against the Broncos and Chiefs, and both made a quick exit with the rest of the first-string unit.
Later in the press conference, Harbaugh was asked if there was any "definition" in the competition. He again said that nothing was "cemented" and that he didn't want to go over each of the 11 competitors individually. He did, however, mention Boldin, Williams and Moore by name. "I think everybody is in a very competitive role after those three," Harbaugh said.
The 49ers likely will keep five or six receivers on the active roster.
Harbaugh said that rookie Quinton Patton, who had not been able to catch passes in practice due to a finger injury, would begin practicing in full this week. He also said that Mario Manningham (ACL) would begin the season on the physically unable perform list, meaning he cannot return to action until after Week 6 at the earliest.
The first game that Manningham could suit up in is the Oct. 20 game against the Titans. The 49ers have a bye week two weeks after that.
-- Matt Barrows