A.J. Jenkins hopes third team, Dallas Cowboys, is right team

A former first round pick, A.J. Jenkins knows he's not going to have a lot of other chances to make it in the NFL. Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports

IRVING, Texas -- A.J. Jenkins is about to begin his second week with the Dallas Cowboys. In his fourth year in the league, he knows he doesn’t have time to waste.

“My clock is ticking, I know that,” Jenkins said. “So I’ve got to hurry up and make plays and do something. The Cowboys gave me an opportunity. I’m just grateful for the opportunity.”

The San Francisco 49ers made him a first-round pick in 2012 but he didn’t play in a game as a rookie. The Niners were so disappointed they traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs, who were more than willing to part ways with their disappointing wide receiver, Jonathan Baldwin.

In two years with the Chiefs, Jenkins caught 17 passes for 223 yards. He played in only nine games last year with a shoulder injury and was cut in the offseason.

Jenkins said he had other opportunities, but the Cowboys were the first team to give him a second call after they worked him out three weeks ago.

With Dez Bryant not taking part in the offseason program, the Cowboys wanted a veteran receiver. Of the nine other receivers taking part in the organized team activities before Jenkins signed only three actually played in a regular-season game: Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and Devin Street.

“He’s a talented guy,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Just want to get him in here and put him in the mix and see how he competes.”

It’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it’s a chance.

It took Jenkins time to catch on at Illinois as well. He had a solid junior season but his senior year was eye-catching. He caught 90 passes for 1,276 yards and eight touchdowns, which all ranked in the top five for single-seasons in school history. He had five 100-yard games and four catches of 60 yards or more.

The Niners became enthralled with his speed and probably over-drafted him. The Cowboys had him in the middle rounds on their draft board.

But former first-round picks get second and third opportunities. Jenkins is hoping this chance with the Cowboys turns into his best.

“I know how it looks. I definitely know how it looks,” Jenkins said of the start to his career. “But just the position I was put in at that point and time, I don’t really see myself as being a failure or nothing like that. I got to find my way. It’s the right opportunity. It’s the right everything. It’s got to happen.”