James set new career highs in receptions (23) and receiving yards (394) while scoring a touchdown over 11 games with the 49ers this season. James has spent the majority of his first three years as a pro on special teams as a punt and kick returner, but injuries allowed the wideout to nearly double his previous high in offensive snaps with 405 in the 2020 campaign. The speedster maintained a healthy 17.1 yards per reception average even with the bump up in playing time. James saw his playing time diminish when Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel were able to suit up, which confirms his status as a backup heading into 2021. However, the 24-year-old's improved play should earn him an opportunity to compete for the starting slot receiver role in training camp.
James started and logged 51 offensive snaps (91 percent) Saturday, but he was held catchless (one target) in a 20-12 win over Arizona. The 49ers were able to pound the rock with continued success against a Cardinals defense that was without Corey Peters (knee), the team's starting nose tackle and premier run stuffer. As a result, C.J. Beathard was asked to throw the ball only 22 times, and most of those targets went to tight ends and running backs. James did stick in the starting lineup opposite Brandon Aiyuk, which gives him some upside heading into a Week 17 matchup against Seattle, especially if the game script forces San Francisco to air it out.
James (ankle) doesn't have an injury designation for Saturday's game against the Cardinals. The 49ers cleared James for the Week 16 matchup after he upgraded from limited participation at practices Tuesday and Wednesday to full activity Thursday. With Deebo Samuel (hamstring) having been shut down for the season, James is expected to hold down a regular role in three-receiver sets alongside Brandon Aiyuk and Kendrick Bourne for the 49ers' final two games.
James (ankle) was a limited practice participant Wednesday. Aside from lighting up the Packers for nine catches (on 13 targets) for 184 yards and a touchdown Week 9, James has combined for an 11-144-0 line on 16 targets over the last five games. He could be in store for a few more snaps than normal with Deebo Samuel (hamstring) unlikely to play again this season and Trent Taylor (undisclosed) going on the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday. Having said that, Brandon Aiyuk is the clear No. 1 wide receiver for the 49ers, with James, Kendrick Bourne and Jordan Reed otherwise getting scraps.
James (ankle) was a limited participant in Tuesday's walkthrough practice. James was absent from the 49ers' final drive of this past Sunday's loss to the Cowboys after tweaking his ankle. Although it was just a walkthrough, his presence at Tuesday's practice is an encouraging sign for his Week 16 status. The third-year receiver will aim to upgrade to full participation by the end of the week as he prepares for Saturday's game against the Cardinals. If he's able to play, he'll catch passes from C.J. Beathard because Nick Mullens (elbow) is done for the year.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
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