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San Francisco Receiver Picture Is Still Blurry

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A.J. Jenkins has a real opportunity to seize the No. 2 wideout job. After one game, he remains an unknown and untrusted commodity. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images.
A.J. Jenkins has a real opportunity to seize the No. 2 wideout job. After one game, he remains an unknown and untrusted commodity. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images.

After two weeks of training camp and one game in our rearview mirror, it’s time to assess one of the most important position battles: Wide Receiver.

While Thursday night's game didn’t do much to clear up the cloudy picture, we did learn a little about what the Niners' coaching staff thinks of some of their players. Let’s take another look at some of the candidates now that the first game is in the books.

Marlon Moore drew the start opposite Anquan Boldin. Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman might know what they have in Moore, as he came out after one possession. He did reel in a 12-yard pass from Colin Kaepernick setting up Phil Dawson’s 32-yard field goal to open the scoring. The fourth-year player out of Fresno State has been impressing in practice. He'll likely remain the de facto No. 2 wideout with Kyle Williams still rehabbing his knee.

The first-team offense had one productive drive. Colt McCoy, Scott Tolzien and the rest of the offense got their chance to put some film together for the coaches. McCoy and Tolzien were very inconsistent, but there were some ups and downs from the receiving corps.

Vance McDonald received extra burn with the second and third units, catching 4-of-8 targets for 66 yards. Additionally, he blocked pretty well when he was asked to. Delanie Walker’s value for the Niners was in his versatility. He was able to play in the backfield, while lining up as an in-line tight end and split in the slot. Vernon Davis is equally versatile, but if McDonald can improve, it may be difficult to take him off the field.

Unfortunately, the 49ers’ second- and third-string wide receivers did little to stand out. Kassim Osgood caught some passes, but he made his mark on special teams. That’s likely where his value will be. Austin Collie came on in the fourth quarter and grabbed two balls on the final drive. That qualifies as a success considering Collie’s injury history.

Easily the biggest disappointment was A.J. Jenkins. The second-year man out of Illinois played 39 snaps against the Broncos and showed good effort and solid game speed, but the results just weren’t there. He saw three targets, catching one briefly before watching it fall to the ground. That’s not going to cut it. After being a first-rounder in 2012, the 49ers are looking at Jenkins to step into the void left by Michael Crabtree. He’s had some strong practice performances since getting over an early camp hamstring injury, but Jenkins can't be trusted until he can put it on tape. 

So, after one preseason game, there’s nothing new to really report. Kyle Williams may be the favorite for the No. 2 job despite being limited early on in camp. Rookie Quinton Patton is getting over a broken finger, but he’ll have an opportunity if he can get on the field. The coaching staff and quarterback clearly want A.J. Jenkins to take the next step ... until he does, he’ll remain just another guy.