SANTA CLARA A.J. Jenkins needs practice and opportunities. That's been the refrain from 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh this week, and he and his staff have delivered on that thought.
Jenkins, one of several young wide receivers competing for a starting spot, has been practicing with the first-, second- and third-string offenses. He's active from the start of practice, catching passes from Colin Kaepernick, to its end, when No. 4 quarterback B.J. Daniels is on the field.
Since he returned from a hamstring injury Sunday, no 49er has caught as many passes as Jenkins, and the hope is that trend continues in today's preseason opener against the visiting Denver Broncos.
"Yeah, he has looked good," Kaepernick said. "We expect more, though. We need him to step up."
Jenkins was the 49ers' first-round draft pick in 2012, but he saw only one pass thrown in his direction he dropped it during the season.
His training camp this summer has been mixed. Jenkins showed a few flashes of talent in the first four days, but he also let passes slip through his hands and seemed to have trouble staying on his feet, an issue during his rookie season. Then he suffered a hamstring injury and missed the next five practices.
But he's had a seemingly renewed resolve since returning. Monday's practice was one of Jenkins' best with the 49ers.
He hauled in seven passes in the afternoon and showed the quickness, fluidity and fast hands that convinced the 49ers he was worth a first-round pick.
What's more, he outfought Perrish Cox, one of the stronger and more aggressive cornerbacks on the 49ers' defense, to catch a pass from Kaepernick on a comeback route.
That feistiness had been missing from Jenkins' repertoire to that point. He will have to fight off other receivers to earn a starting role.
For now, Kyle Williams is listed as the starter opposite Anquan Boldin on the 49ers' unofficial depth chart, although Williams, too, has been slowed by a strained hamstring.
Ricardo Lockette, meanwhile, had a standout practice Tuesday, while Marlon Moore (Natomas High School) and Chad Hall have been perhaps the most consistent receivers since the start of training camp.
Jenkins also will have to hold off newcomers Lavelle Hawkins and Austin Collie, who is coming off a knee injury that wiped out his 2012 season with Indianapolis. Collie (Oak Ridge High School) showed his deep speed has not been compromised when he blew past a safety for a 50-yard touchdown late in Tuesday's practice.
Asked if Jenkins would be a starter today, Harbaugh wouldn't say.
"We could start two receivers; we could start three," he said. "We could start only one because of personnel groups. So who do you consider your starters?"
What's clear is Jenkins is getting every opportunity to win the job and Harbaugh and the 49ers want him to succeed.
"Expectations are high for A.J. Jenkins," Harbaugh said.
Jenkins is aware of the support but also wary of it.
"You can't really feed too much into the positives," he said. "There's still a lot of negative things written about me. So I try to keep my head level-minded."