1 Surprising X-Factor to emerge for 49ers in 2022 NFL season

Jauan Jennings

Jennings proved he could play at a high level towards the end of the 2021 season. From Week 13 on, Jennings received five or more targets in every game but one. He ended the year with his best performance in a crucial game against the Los Angeles Rams. That game he racked up 94 yards and two scores on six catches. It’s clear that the 6’3 212-pound receiver has found a home in this San Francisco offense, and that shouldn’t change next year.

Jennings is almost guaranteed to have a huge uptick in snaps in 2022. He only played 30 percent of the 49ers offensive snaps last year. He spent most of the season buried on the depth chart behind a variety of names. Mohamed Sanu actually started in his place, and Trent Sherfield took some snaps from him as well. Neither player is on the roster for the 2022 season. Jennings is the clear favorite to dominate the snaps out of the slot, and that alone will help him produce better statistics.

There’s a good chance that there’s a huge amount of targets up for grabs in this offense. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel is set to take on the most targets, but there’s questions surrounding his willingness to play. Samuel wants a new contract, and the Niners haven’t been willing to give him one yet. If Samuel holds out for even a couple of weeks, Jennings will likely become second on the team in targets behind tight end George Kittle. If the holdout lasts longer, Jennings gets an even bigger boost to his value.

While some will question the quarterback situation in San Francisco, there isn’t much to worry about. Second-year signal-caller Trey Lance is set to start for the first time this season. Lance will have growing pains, and he isn’t as accurate of a passer as Jimmy Garopollo. However, his lack of experience will likely lead to him targeting his slot receivers more often. In Lance’s Week 5 appearance against the Seattle Seahawks, he targeted Mohamed Sanu five times and Sherfield twice. That’s an above-average target rate, especially considering the fact that Lance was throwing to guys like Sanu and Sherfield. Sanu got another three targets in Lance’s Week 6 start against the Arizona Cardinals. It’s not uncommon for inexperienced quarterbacks to rely on throwing inside the numbers, and that’s exactly what will happen in 2022. That should lead to plenty of production for Jennings.

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