Skip to main content

Why Javon Kinlaw is Extremely Important to the 49ers This Season

Last season, Kinlaw played in only four games.
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

Through two seasons in the NFL, former first-round pick Javon Kinlaw has been a disappointment due to injuries and lack of pass-rush production. But this year, he's as important as any player on the team.

The 49ers would love Kinlaw to blossom into a dominant pass rusher, but he probably won't -- he has just 1.5 sacks in the NFL, and he had only 10 sacks in college. But even if Kinlaw is nothing more than a two-down run defender, he's absolutely essential to the current 49ers' run defense.

The 49ers use a Wide 9 defensive alignment, which moves the defensive ends extra far away from the ball before the snap to give them more space to rush the quarterback. This alignment leaves the two interior defensive tackles isolated and susceptible to double-team blocks during run plays, which means those defensive linemen must be immovable, otherwise the 49ers won't be able to stop runs between the tackles. And if they can't stop those plays, they'll never get the opportunity to rush the quarterback.

Last season, Kinlaw played in only four games, but the 49ers were able to replace him by moving Arik Armstead from defensive end to defensive tackle, and the combination of Armstead and D.J. Jones was extremely stout against the run. Jones in particular started 17 games in the middle of the 49ers defensive line and played extremely well, but he signed with the Broncos this offseason.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

And that means Kinlaw has to stay healthy, has to start 17 games like Jones did last season. Because his backup now is Hassan Ridgeway, who signed this offseason, and he isn't nearly as good as Jones.

Kinlaw had a complete ACL reconstruction surgery this offseason and the 49ers say they're confident he will make a full recovery. That's a positive sign. Maybe his best has yet to come.