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Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

49ers rookie Javon Kinlaw explains how Arik Armstead has influenced his development

Oct 16, 2020 at 10:21 AM--

First, it's important to note that San Francisco 49ers rookie defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw doesn't typically provide lengthy answers to questions. It's just not his style. However, he did have a longer-than-usual response on Thursday when asked to identify a teammate who has been most helpful during his transition from the college game to the pros.

That player is sixth-year defensive lineman Arik Armstead, who has taken on a mentorship role with the first-year defender.

"I've been leaning on Arik a lot," Kinlaw said. "Just love getting some feedback from him. Just love watching film with him, and I've been watching film with him. And him just giving me little keys and little things to help me out, to help my game out a lot. So, I have definitely been leaning on Arik a lot."

Kinlaw joined the 49ers surrounded by high expectations. Not only was he drafted No. 14 overall, but general manager John Lynch and company used the selection (after trading down one spot) acquired from the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for DeForest Buckner to grab the young defender. The expectation was to have the rookie help offset the loss of the Pro Bowl defensive tackle.

The respect and admiration between Kinlaw and Armstead aren't a one-way street. Kinlaw has shown enough through the shortened offseason and five weeks of the season to earn Armstead's esteem, too.

"I am really excited and impressed with Javon," Armstead told Damon Bruce, Ray Ratto, and Matt Kolsky on 95.7 The Game this week. "His maturity definitely stands out and how just from week one, from day one, he's been able to come in here and handle everything that comes along with playing in the league and playing a lot of snaps in the league.

"He's super mature. We need him out there. He's dependable, and we count on him to play big in games, and he's been doing that."

Kinlaw, who is far from a finished product, has shown flashes during his rookie campaign. With Armstead and others' help, the 49ers hope Kinlaw can develop into a force in the middle of the defensive line.

Ideally, the team would like for that to happen sooner rather than later. The once-potent unit has been devastated by injuries, including the losses of edge rushers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford. The coaches had hoped to see Solomon Thomas have a breakout year, but he, like Bosa, suffered a season-ending ACL injury.

Kinlaw remains his own toughest critic and feels he still has a lot of room for growth. Armstead is excited to watch that development.

"I love playing alongside of him, and it's been exciting to see," Armstead added. "I'm excited to watch him continue to grow and become an even better and better player."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Armstead below.

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