Jeans alone offer little protection. If you are going to wear jeans, wear some with some kevlar/aramid protection and optional hip or knee pads. Even some type of impact short/pant and knee shin guards are important to wear underneath.
A good pair of padded/armoured riding pants will offer much better protection than plain jeans. Although leather is the best protection, other materials such as Codura, Ballistic Nylon, Kevlar/Aramid Fiber and Suede are being used in motorcycle apparel and as technology evolves so will the level of material durability and protection.
Motocross/offroad pants offer more protection from abrasion (caused by soft surfaces other than pavement) than impact. Impact protection gear/pads are usually worn underneath. However some higher end motocross/offroad style pants do have impact protection as well as areas protected by leather (especially areas subjected to exhaust burns and knee abrasions).
One of the most disregarded pieces of armor you can have is one that protects your shins knees and hips. Lower extremity injuries are the most common injuries sustained by motorcyclist involved in a crash. An estimated 97 percent of injured motorcyclists sustain more leg injuries below the thigh than any other type of lower-extremity injury, with bone fractures being more common than soft-tissue injuries.
Armor can be relatively cheap to expensive, But even a proper fitting cheap pair of leg protectors can prevent a nasty burn, bruise, scrap, cut or abrasion. Remember when you were little and you scraped your knee after a fall from running? Now imagine that fall at 15-60 mph.
Even a simple lay down can result in an injury. Knee injuries can be very serious and you not even know it.
If you can afford leather, get it. If you are a bit budget minded and ride at relatively slow street speeds, consider some other decent alternatives.
Here is an excerpt from an article on abrasion testing in Cycle Magazine...
..."Finally, protection from road abrasion cannot be guaranteed by a materials abrasion resistance alone. A jacket may have panels of highly abrasion-resistant materials, yet if low-quality stitching joins those panels and the seams come apart upon impact or during a slide, then the abrasion resistance of the panels could count for nothing. Furthermore, an ill-fitting garment may ride up in a slide, contorting the body and exposing the skin. And the best jacket in the world, left unzipped and/or unsnapped, won't give riders the protection they pay for. When it comes to safety, the issues are more complex than just the abrasion resistance of materials."