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Javon Kinlaw is the Key to Taking the 49ers Defense to the Next Level

Javon Kinlaw continues to ascend in training camp. If he can stay healthy, then he can be the key to taking the 49ers defense to the next level.

Javon Kinlaw has been receiving a heavier workload in training camp and that isn't by accident. The 49ers have been impressed with how Kinlaw is responding to it as it shows he has no issues with his knee and is in tip-top shape. 

“He's been great," Kyle Shanahan said. "To be able to keep pushing the reps up and up and for him to have no setbacks, it's been awesome. And hopefully we'll be able to get him in this game too, depending on how these next two practices go.”

While I think it is unlikely Kinlaw actually sees playing time against the Packers this Friday, it would be sweet to see him get some run in a game. That is the next step for Kinlaw and it is better to get him warmed up in a preseason game instead of just throwing him into a regular season game. The 49ers will be satisfied if they can get Kinlaw for a full season and making some impact plays here and there. 

But ideally there should be more from him given that he is a top-15 first-round pick. Kinlaw is capable of being more than a player who just has some impact moments. He can be that player who flashes for a large portion of the game and throughout a season. For a defense that is already elite, Kinlaw is the key to taking them to the next level. All he needs is to remain health and develop a pass-rushing presence. If he can do that, then the 49ers will certainly be similar to 2019.

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Remember, that defense was incredible because of the defensive line. 2022 has the potential to come close to that. Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead are still here and better than ever, while Kinlaw and Drake Jackson fill the roles of DeForest Buckner and Dee Ford. I'm not saying that Kinlaw and Jackson will be those players, but the impact they can have is not too far off. Besides, they do not need to be similar in impact as those two in 2019 as Bosa and Armstead can fill the gap.

“Javon has been doing a really nice job in there,” DeMeco Ryans said. “Just taking his time of really ramping himself back up, so the biggest emphasis for him has just been on his technique. And I feel like he's done a really nice job these past couple days of going in and playing with low pads, using his hands inside and making plays in the backfield. So he's doing really good at being focused on the small details of his job, which will allow him to be a very dominant player inside for us.”