Is first-round pick Jenkins ready to contribute?


Is first-round pick Jenkins ready to contribute?

The 49ers have yet to place wide receiver Mario Manningham on injured reserve, but obviously the club has a roster spot to fill after he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 49ers' blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night.

The 49ers remained one player shy of the roster maximum of 52 players for the game at New England because the club determined anybody they added would not suit up for action, anyway. And that is the question now: Would anyone they add to the roster be among the 46 players to suit up for games?

The team usually dresses four wide receivers for games, and that does not have to change with Manningham's injury. Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss are the starters. Rookie A.J. Jenkins vaults into the role as the third receiver. Veteran Ted Ginn is the only player currently on the 53-man roster who has ever returned a punt for the 49ers, so he must be active.

The 49ers also have two receivers on their practice squad: Chad Hall and Ricardo Lockette, who have seen previous NFL game experience with Philadelphia and Seattle, respectively.

It's not often that a team has two of its top four receivers go down with season-ending injuries and the next person in line is a first-round draft pick. But that's the 49ers' situation now with Jenkins being bumped up a couple spots on the depth chart after Kyle Williams and Manningham were lost to injuries. The 49ers are likely to employ more two-back and two-tight end formations instead of three-receiver sets. In fact, undrafted rookie tight end Garrett Celek has the largest role of any of the 49ers' first-year players.

The only reason the 49ers would sign a currently unemployed veteran receiver -- has the name Terrell Owens crossed your mind? -- would be if the club had zero confidence in Jenkins. After all, any receiver the 49ers signed with the intent of suiting up and playing would push Jenkins back to the inactive list.

Second-round draft pick LaMichael James got his chance as the No. 2 running back behind Frank Gore due to a season-ending injury to Kendall Hunter and Brandon Jacobs' suspension. James has 76 yards on 20 carries, but made an impact against the Patriots with a momentum-turning 62-yard kickoff return.

Jenkins has suited up for just two games in his rookie season, playing a total of 16 snaps. He has yet to catch a pass -- or even seen one thrown his way. Now, he should at least get an opportunity to step onto the field in the final regular-season game and for as long as the playoffs last for the 49ers.

Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals


Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. — Blaine Gabbert will get his first start for the Arizona Cardinals when they play the Texans in Houston on Sunday.

Coach Bruce Arians announced the decision after Friday's practice.

Drew Stanton, the starter the last two games, bruised his knee early in the Thursday night loss to Seattle last week. He stayed in the game but has been limited in practice all week.

Arians said it will be a game-time decision as to whether Stanton or recently signed Matt Barkley would be Gabbert's backup.

Gabbert will be making his 41st NFL start. He has a 9-31 record. He signed with Arizona last offseason and was the third quarterback until Carson Palmer broke his arm against the Los Angeles Rams in London and was lost for the season.

49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?


49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?

Believe it or not, the 49ers’ offense is improved from last season.

The 49ers ranked 31st in the NFL in 2016, averaging 308.1 yards per game. Although the offense is producing just a little better (325.9 yards per game), their ranking this season has shot up to 21st in the league.

The 49ers have had a different head coach and different person running the offense in each of the past four seasons, so their continuity has been severely lacking.

Next season, the 49ers should finally have carryover from one season to the next.

The direction of the offense is one of the topics addressed on this edition of 49ers Mailbag (questions were submitted via Facebook):

Now that we have Jimmy G do you see 49ers getting an offensive coordinator or will it still be Kyle calling the plays? (Julio Orozco)
I'm not sure why the arrival of Jimmy Garoppolo would have any impact on the 49ers’ offensive structure, but in any event, the answer is a resounding, “No.”

Kyle Shanahan has been hailed as one of the best offensive coordinators in the NFL. The reason he was hired as 49ers head coach was, in large part, because of the success he achieved while designing offenses and calling plays.

Why would he give that up? It makes no sense.

Rob Demovsky of ESPN this week identified the 32 primary play-callers. There are 18 NFL head coaches with offensive backgrounds. Twelve of those coaches call their own plays.

Shanahan has a staff of assistant coaches on whom he leans. Passing game specialist Mike LaFleur and quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello are closely involved in working with Shanahan on the passing game, while running game specialist Mike McDaniel, offensive line coach John Benton and running backs coach Bobby Turner spearhead the involvement in the ground game.

But, make no mistake, it is Shanahan who calls the shots. And that's the way it should be. If Shanahan stepped aside as his own offensive coordinator, he would be diminishing his biggest strength as a coach.

What do you see happing with the Hyde situation? We drafted Joe Williams and Breida seems to be a bright spot. There’s a lot of talk about Barkley from Penn State with that high 1st rounder. (Manny Hinojos)
There does not seem to be any movement toward a long-term extension for Hyde. It is getting to the point in the season where it makes a lot more sense for Hyde to play out his contract and hit the open market.

There is no question in my mind the 49ers like Hyde a lot. He has scored some major points with the organization for his performance on the field and how he has responded off the field.

GM John Lynch loved it when Hyde came to the defense of quarterback C.J. Beathard, tussled with Arizona lineman Frostee Rucker and got ejected from the game.

That said, the 49ers are not going to break the bank for Hyde. A multi-year agreement has to come at the right price. My personal feeling is that running backs are luxury pieces when the remainder of a team’s roster -- especially the offensive line -- is set.

Shanahan and his father, Mike Shanahan, and Turner (the assistant coach who served on both of their staffs) have achieved a lot of success without investing heavily in running backs. That’s why I think the 49ers would be best-served by investing elsewhere and using another mid-round draft pick on a running back.

With Joshua Garnett coming back next season how aggressive will Lynch and Shanahan be in trying to get guards this offseason? (David Hartless)
Garnett is not a particularly good fit for this offensive scheme. The presence of Garnett can help increase the competition next offseason, but I do not believe he is being penciled in as a starter.

The 49ers will certainly be aggressive in an attempt to upgrade the guard positions. Currently, Laken Tomlinson and Brandon Fusco are the starters. Neither will be assured a starting job when the offseason begins.

The 49ers did not see enough from Garnett to determine he has a future with the organization, but he will be given the opportunity to come back healthy and prove himself.

Is Eric Reid in long-term plans? (Grant Rasmussen)
I do not believe so. I think the 49ers would like their starting safeties next season to be Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt – with Adrian Colbert as the front-runner for the No. 3 job.

The 49ers can also be expected to add a player or two in free agency, as well as the draft, to provide a competitive environment in the offseason. The 49ers seemed to telegraph their intention with Reid when they moved him to linebacker with Ward and Tartt remaining as the starting safeties.

That position change lasted about a week, as Ward’s injury prompted the team to move Reid back to safety. Reid is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. It's entirely possible there will not be a big market for him, but I do not believe the 49ers are going to be ultra-competitive in retaining him on the open market.