Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Baldy: 49ers won’t regret trading DeForest Buckner if Javon Kinlaw is healthy

Aug 4, 2021 at 9:39 AM--

Fans have been somewhat critical of the San Francisco 49ers' decision to trade away defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and use the draft pick acquired to add a less-expensive replacement in Javon Kinlaw. Buckner went on to earn first-team All-Pro honors in his first season with the Indianapolis Colts, recording 9.5 sacks along the way.

Meanwhile, statistically, Kinlaw's rookie campaign was underwhelming, producing just 1.5 sacks along an injury-plagued defensive front. However, the massive defender has shown flashes, which bodes well for his outlook.

One respected analyst, Brian Baldinger of NFL Media, believes fans shouldn't regret San Francisco's decision to move on from Buckner. He has a lot of confidence that Kinlaw is gearing up for a breakout sophomore NFL season, listing the 49ers defensive lineman among his eight "players in the trenches" poised to do so in Year 2.

"The rookie flashed in 2020 and, at times, looked crazy good before missing the final two games of the season with a knee injury," wrote Baldinger.

Kinlaw underwent surgery after the season and then, more recently, a procedure to deal with swelling around his knee. The 49ers have since eased the defender back into team drills.

"Before Nick Bosa's season-ending injury in Week 2, Bosa's influence on Kinlaw's play was apparent," Baldinger continued, "and there's no doubt that this duo is going to attract a lot of attention when Bosa gets back on the gridiron."

Bosa is coming off an ACL injury and has looked good in practices. Although, he hasn't yet participated in team drills. Head coach Kyle Shanahan isn't concerned that a lack of training camp reps will hinder Bosa's preparation for the season because of how hard the third-year defender works.

"You know, you look back to his rookie year, and I think he got a high ankle sprain, I think before our first game," Shanahan said last week. "I don't think he played at all in the first preseason, and we weren't sure if he was going to be ready for Tampa."

Bosa went on to be named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year that season. Kinlaw admits that he's learned a lot from teammates like Bosa and Dee Ford.

"Just being able to get with those two and just pick their brains," Kinlaw told reporters this week. "I always pick brains. I pick everybody's brain, honestly. I'm always looking to learn. I'm always trying to get better at everything I do. One day I'm going to be able to look back and say that I was one of the best guys to do this, so I'm always just wanting to learn something. Anything I ask them, they tell me what it is and what it ain't."

Baldinger feels Kinlaw has all the physical traits to succeed in the NFL, possibly helping the young defender reach his goal of being one of the best "to do this."

"Kinlaw, who has enormous size (6-5, 324 pounds), power and movement, spent too much time wrestling his opponents last season," wrote Baldinger. "Now, it's time to learn moves and counter moves AND learn when to use them. I like what I've seen so far, but we need to keep an eye on his knee over the next month after having a setback in his recovery last week."

Baldinger, of course, was referring to the more recent procedure to deal with the swelling, which Shanahan revealed last week.

Added Baldinger: "If he has a full recovery, which I believe he will, you can bet the Niners WON'T REGRET trading Buckner knowing what Kinlaw can bring to the table at the start of the season."

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