Expectations are set on every player, coach, and team in the NFL.
For rookies, they are especially emphasized because they bring hope due to their potential. Back in late May, I wrote a string of articles reviewing what the expectations were for the rookies of the San Francisco 49ers. The first player's expectations I looked over was defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw.
With DeForest Buckner gone, Kinlaw unfortunately gets the burden of being measured up to Buckner. That isn't exclusive to his rookie season. He is going to be compared to Buckner for the rest of his 49ers career.
So did Kinlaw live up to his expectations for his rookie year?
His expectations I mentioned for him at the time were to "be in the same ballpark as Buckner" in terms of impact. Now he did not get close to that at all, which is understandable. Having a rookie try to reach an All Pro level is insane.
However, I will say that once the Buckner comparison gets thrown out, he had himself a solid season. He essentially had the season that I expected him to have in terms of making plays "here and there," while showing signs of development. That is all the 49ers can ask for, especially in a year without Nick Bosa and Dee Ford. Had those two been there, imagine what the production would have looked like.
Kinlaw did not have great numbers in terms of sacks, but he did generate a sweet number of pressures (19). Remember, sack numbers are not everything. Kinlaw did decently as a pass rusher, but proved himself a valuable run defender. That is likely why the Pro Football Writers of America deemed him worthy of naming him to their All-Rookie team.
2021 should see a substantial growth in Kinlaw. The defensive line will be back in good health to boost him as well as his own progressions. The pressure will rise on him to make a heftier impact as a pass rusher.
And with his first full NFL offseason upcoming, he has no excuses as to why he cannot attain that high level.