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Rookie report card: We’re seeing glimpses of how good Aiyuk and Kinlaw could be

Lynch’s first two picks from the 2020 NFL Draft continue to show promise

San Francisco 49ers v New York Giants Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

During Week 2, San Francisco 49ers rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk looked like a chicken with his head cut off. He was playing, but more often than not, Aiyuk looked as if he didn’t know where to line up or was second-guessing himself during plays. One week later, Aiyuk looked like a first-round pick who could significantly impact a playoff team. Aiyuk was targeted a team-high eight times. That alone speaks to how comfortable Kyle Shanahan is with Aiyuk. He caught five of those passes for 70 yards, with four of those passes going for first downs.

Baldy Breakdown? You bet.

At their best, the 49ers passing offense uses play-action and RPOs to allow their receivers to find the open space in the second level of the defense. The offensive line did a great job of allowing Nick Mullens time to scan the field on Sunday, but Aiyuk was equally impressive at finding the open areas.

Aiyuk carried the ball three times for 31 yards, including a touchdown and a first down. Getting the ball into Aiyuk’s hands in the open field a couple of times a game should be a no-brainer for Shanahan moving forward. Late in the game against the Jets, Aiyuk showed that he’s difficult to tackle. Against the Giants, Aiyuk looked like he was gliding. It’s effortless, but he’s still running away from defenders.

Aiyuk had the highest EPA for all running backs and wide receivers against the Giants. It was one game, but based on his usage and how easily he got open, Aiyuk looks like the real deal, just as he did during training camp.

Grade: A-

PFF graded Javon Kinlaw as a 71.3 against the Giants. Kinlaw had one QB hit, a batted a pass and had two stops. While he hasn’t made a significant impact as a pass rusher, you can see Kinlaw’s process is there. He’s not just using a bull-rush to overwhelm offensive lineman. Kinlaw is using his hands, and he’s getting closer and closer to the quarterback. Once Kinlaw develops a counter, he’ll be a nightmare to block.

As a run defender, Kinlaw is already arguably the best on the team. Offenses have struggled to move him, and that continued on Sunday. From an EPA standpoint, the 49ers had the best rushing defense during Week 3, and it wasn’t particularly close. New York’s success rate on the ground was 28.6%, which was the third-worst in the NFL.

Here is Kinlaw splitting a double team, batting a pass, and throwing a lineman to the side, and bull-rushing a tackle to the ground:

Kinlaw is still “raw” and learning, which is scary for the rest of the NFL.

Grade: A-