Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers


49ers rookie DT Javon Kinlaw ‘trying to find his way,’ says Robert Saleh

Aug 24, 2020 at 1:20 PM--


You win some, you lose some. That pretty much describes Javon Kinlaw's first NFL training camp. The San Francisco 49ers rookie defensive tackle has big shoes to fill as he seeks to fill the massive void left by the departure of DeForest Buckner.

Kinlaw will have his good moments during practices, beating some of the offensive linemen expected to fall further down in the depth chart. Then he'll have some bad ones, like going against veteran Laken Tomlinson.

Kinlaw's massive presence on the practice field makes it easy to forget that the 310-plus-pound defensive tackle is a rookie. Unlike the 49ers' top pick from a year ago, Kinlaw is unpolished, for now relying on brute strength as he tries to bullrush blockers backward. With time and proper technique, he should make significant strides and prove to be a force against opposing offenses.

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh isn't worried. He knows his young defender will get there. That will only come with experience and in-person coaching, though. The rookie has lacked both this offseason as the coronavirus pandemic forced NFL teams to conduct their offseason programs virtually, leaving players on their own to train and work on their craft.

Kinlaw worked with defensive line trainer Cam Spence this offseason, attempting to sharpen his skills. Yes, sharpen. You know where I am going with this.

Kinlaw went through the same drill that six-time Pro Bowler, five-time first-team All-Pro, and two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams utilizes, dodging hard rubber knives to improve hand-speed.


Saleh feels Kinlaw is getting his feet under him, and without a true offseason, that may take some time and patience. Physically, the defensive tackle is very gifted.

"I think he's trying to find his way," Saleh said on Sunday. "I think our offense is an S.O.B. to go against on a day in and day out basis with how fast and how physical they are. I think it is a shock to a rookie defensive lineman when they come in here, and he's going against guys like Laken Tomlinson. And he's got Trent Williams trying to reach him on the backside. He's just got all this stuff happening to him, and (Mike) McGlinchey. Just all of them.

"It's tough, but he's coming along every day. He's made a small improvement every single day, so the focus for him is just continue to get better and hit the ground running come Week 1."





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