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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Can 49ers WR Jauan Jennings build off big game vs. Saints?

Rohan Chakravarthi
Nov 29, 2022 at 12:30 PM--

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jauan Jennings was the team's leading pass-catcher on Sunday, hauling in six passes for 49 yards and a touchdown, his second-most productive total of the season.

Jennings, who has been relatively quiet this season after a strong finish to his 2021 campaign, put together an emphatic performance where he was once again a reliable option at the sticks, converting five first downs on his six receptions.

On the year, 17 of Jennings's 24 receptions have gone for first downs, despite the 2020 seventh-round pick averaging just 5.7 yards per reception.

However, the 49ers wideout has struggled with drops this season, averaging a drop rate of over 20% through the first seven weeks of the season.

Since then, despite some inconsistent volume, Jennings has settled down, catching all four of his targets against the Los Angeles Chargers before hauling in six of seven targets against the New Orleans Saints.

Jennings came in clutch for the 49ers in the fourth quarter, converting a crucial 3rd & 5 opportunity at San Francisco's 28-yard line with 4:06 remaining to allow his team to run out the clock on their final drive, rather than giving the Saints an opportunity to get the ball back.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan praised his receiver's efforts, understanding the momentum Jennings' play provided.

"Oh, [that last catch on 3rd & 5] was huge," Shanahan said. "To get down there on the third-and-one in the second quarter, he had the big explosive on the out [and] came again I think in the fourth quarter with that, so we could run the clock out. Had that real good catch on the touchdown, Jauan's clutch for us and he kept us out on the field a couple times and got us those points."

While Jennings isn't the most-talked-about receiver on the 49ers, given the high-profile names of Deebo Samuel and even Brandon Aiyuk, the energy that the Tennessee product provides is a significant addition to the team.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo believes that effort has been there even in practice over the past few seasons, which increases the trust in the quarterback-receiver relationship.

"I see it every day in practice. I've seen it for multiple years now even. When you have a guy like that who does it every day in practice, is reliable, wants the ball, you could see the competitiveness. I mean, every play he's in, Jauan is busting his ass. And as a quarterback, you love having a guy like that. So just the trust and reliability from Jauan goes a long way from me."

Jennings has developed a reputation as a strong run-blocker and a physical player, which has boosted his arsenal as a pass-catcher as well.

Despite his size, Jennings has become one of the team's better route-runners, which has led to his heavy third-down usage when most teams deploy man coverage.

"He does a lot of good things. He separates at the top of his routes and as a quarterback, it's easy to read his body language and things," Garoppolo said. "So, I thought the skill positions across the board [against the Saints] stepped up big. Guys were making plays just in different moments. And Jauan, when his number was called, was ready."

Jennings's physicality has irritated opponents at times, which appeared to occur on Sunday when veteran cornerback Chris Harris, Jr. committed an unnecessary roughness penalty toward the end of the second quarter when the 49ers were driving down the field.

Harris's penalty stopped the clock for the 49ers after they had burned their final timeout on the play before, setting them up with a 1st & Goal opportunity, which Jennings converted for a touchdown off a tipped pass from Garoppolo.

On his ability to deliver during third-down plays, Jennings attributes his success to being able to beat man-to-man coverage, making it easier to separate on routes in crucial moments.

"A lot of teams like to play man to man on third downs and that's where that's like one of my strengths," Jennings told reporters following the game. "I beat man to man."

Now, Jennings must continue with consistency, which hasn't been the case yet in 2022, for the 49ers to reach their ceiling this season, as Jimmy Garoppolo will have to be able to rely on all of his top options.

Given the talent at the skill position players for the 49ers, providing Jennings with seven targets on a consistent basis is unfeasible, but when his number is called, the slot receiver needs to deliver to prolong drives for the offense.

How can that consistency continue to evolve? Well, Jennings must maintain his current style of play, as his physicality has resulted in 49% of his receiving yards coming after the catch.

But, most importantly, Jennings must limit the drops that plagued him and the 49ers' execution earlier in the season, although they've been a problem for the 6'3 receiver since he earned a bigger role with the team last season.

If that consistency arrives, the 49ers will possess a strong core of weapons heading into the final stretch of the season, which has allowed Jimmy Garoppolo to play better and turnover-free football over the past weeks.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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