One of the biggest hopes of the 49ers entering training camp was that somebody would emerge from among the wide receiver corps to take the place of the injured Michael Crabtree.
After a week in camp, however, things haven’t gone as planned.
Injuries have taken their toll, and some prospects haven’t yet taken advantage of the opportunity.
A.J. Jenkins, the team’s top draft pick from 2012, suffered a minor hamstring injury Tuesday and wasn’t able to practice, as did another receiver, Kassim Osgood. Veteran Kyle Williams also has been sidelined this week by a sore hamstring. Rookie Quinton Patton has an injured finger that has prevented quarterbacks from throwing to him in practice (he’s still running routes, however). And Ricardo Lockette – quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s offseason practice partner – has been slowed by a hip problem.
Even before Jenkins was hurt, he hadn’t distinguished himself in practices, according to observers.
So what does it mean?
First of all, the 49ers hope that some of these minor injuries are just that, and players such as Jenkins, Williams, Patton and Lockette will be back at full speed soon and able to make a case for playing time during the exhibition season.
And second, their absence has opened the door slightly to some other players who are trying to take advantage of the situation.
Marlon Moore, for instance, was playing on the first-team offense Tuesday along with Anquan Boldin, now the team’s No. 1 receiver. Moore, from Fresno State who caught only 12 passes for the Miami Dolphins the past three seasons after being signed as an undrafted free agent, knows he has a chance to show coaches he can play.
“It’s a big opportunity for me and every receiver,” Moore told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group. “We know what’s at stake. All I can do is make plays when I get opportunities. Coaches will make the right decision on who they want.”
Chad Hall, a former Air Force quarterback who played for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010 and 2011, catching 14 total passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns, has looked good in practices. The 5-foot-8, 187-pounder has speed and an ability to play well on special teams, but entered camp as a long shot to stick as receiver.
Another receiver playing well is Chuck Jacobs, an undrafted rookie from Utah State, a 6-foot, 178-pounder from Richmond. Jacobs last season caught 41 passes for 608 yards and five TDs, after catching 20 passes as a junior (following his transfer from Laney Community College).
Former college quarterback B.J. Daniels, too, has received playing time at the wideout spot.
But Moore, Hall, Jacobs and Daniels aren’t likely to make anyone forget Crabtree. The Niners still have to hope Jenkins, Lockette, Williams or Patton can heal soon, get back on the field and earn the trust of Kaepernick and 49ers coaches.
Otherwise, the thin status of the receiving corps could turn into a season-long problem.