Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

DeMeco Ryans on why Javon Kinlaw could be key to 49ers defense’s success

Aug 7, 2022 at 12:57 PM--

Last week, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans identified three things defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw needed to work on in preparation for his third NFL season: technique, technique, technique. Kinlaw is returning after undergoing season-ending reconstructive surgery to repair his ACL last year. To this point, the former No. 14 overall pick's contributions have been underwhelming.

That could change in 2022, though. Kinlaw has put in the work during his recover, and as the 49ers ramp up his training camp workload, many feel that the defender could be on the cusp of becoming a dominant force for the defensive front.

"I think Javon, he's been doing a really nice job in there, just taking his time of really ramping himself back up," Ryans told reporters after Sunday's practice. "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 of days of going in and playing with low pads, using his hands inside, and making plays in the backfield. He's doing really good of being focused on the small details of his job, which will allow him to be a very dominant player inside for us."

Kinlaw reached opposing quarterbacks just 1.5 times during his rookie campaign. Last season, he recorded eight tackles and one quarterback hit in the four game appearances before landing on injured reserve. Kinlaw reaching the potential the 49ers saw ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft would bolster an already elite unit.

"He's bringing energy to our group. He's physical," Ryans said. "He's looking good out there, in good shape, getting his legs back under him. And I'm excited to see him just continue to progress, and looking forward to him having a big year for us because it will be really vital for us to have really dominant players inside. That's what helps our defense perform the way we perform, is those inside players. So having Javon, and having Arik (Armstead) inside will be huge for us."

Everything starts up front for the 49ers defense. Building a dominant defensive front was a priority for head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch when they took over the team in 2017. The team keeps adding pieces to the defensive line, unwilling to let the talent in that area dwindle from year to year. Five years later, that defensive front is among the best and deepest in the league.

"I think D-line depth is huge because, for me, that's the group that drives everything we do defensively," Ryans explained. "So we need as much depth as possible, and those are some of the guys who unfortunately go through a lot of nicks and bumps along the way throughout camp. So you want to have enough depth there to keep guys rolling, and you want to keep those guys fresh. That's the biggest thing.

"If you can rush the passer in waves—not just one guy or two guys—but if we can rush the passer in waves where guys are always fresh coming in, it gives us a competitive advantage. So having depth there is huge for our success."

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