Kyle Shanahan explains why Jauan Jennings is reliable for 49ers on third down


Shanahan explains why Jennings is so reliable on third down originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

  • Programming note: Greg Papa's full interview with Kyle Shanahan will air at 11 p.m. PT Friday during "49ers Game Plan" on NBC Sports Bay Area

Third and Jauan.

It's a nickname the 49ers Faithful have become quite familiar with as wide receiver Jauan Jennings continues to be quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's go-to target on third down this season.

So, what is it about Jennings that makes him so reliable when the pressure is high?

"Jauan, he's our most consistent separator versus man coverage," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan told Greg Papa on the latest episode of "49ers Game Plan" this week. "He has been in training camp, he has been for the last couple of years.

"So, no, he's not No. 1 in everything. We mix it up -- a lot of our guys can beat man, but he is the most consistent. So when he is No. 1 and it's man coverage, he usually wins. So we don't want to get off of him."

Shanahan pointed out a statistic provided to him by the 49ers' analytics department that lists Jennings at No. 2 out of the NFL's top 100 qualifying receivers when it comes to third-down success.

"I told him that yesterday," Shanahan said. "He goes, 'Who's No. 1?' And he was all mad about it."

Of Jennings' 24 receptions for 269 yards and one touchdown on the season, 13 of his catches have been third-down conversions. He leads the 49ers and is tied for eighth among pass-catchers in the NFL at converting third downs.

After the 49ers' Week 12 win over the New Orleans Saints, Jennings didn't shy away from saying how comfortable he feels on third down and had a similar assessment to Shanahan's.

"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 said. "I beat man to man."

It isn't just man coverage where Jennings excels, either, Shanahan explained.

"He does a really good job in zones, too," Shanahan said. "When you see him underneath, that means he usually wasn't No. 1. We're going to someone else and coming to him at the end of a play, and he's good at getting up the field.

"He's not going to get the house call as much as someone like Deebo [Samuel], but he moves the chains for us and he's a very important player."

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Jennings had the lone touchdown in San Francisco's 13-0 win over the Saints, and his incredible end-zone catch wouldn't have been possible without one of his three third-down conversions on the day that extended the scoring drive.

It's that kind of effort that makes him so dependable. And the 49ers certainly will need Jennings and the rest of their receivers to go all-out as they face the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Levi's Stadium.

"Jauan's an animal out there, and he's been a great player for us this year," Shanahan told Papa.

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