Player development has been a massive issue for the 49ers this season. While that term usually comes up when talking about Trey Lance or Brandon Aiyuk, on Wednesday, Kyle Shanahan talked about it pertaining to Javon Kinlaw and his knee issues. Unfortunately, it wasn’t good news.
“Yeah, that’s a big concern this year and it’s nothing against him, but it’s been unfortunate with him. So, his development right now is on hold. I was real excited with how he started at the end of last year. Those last few games, especially at Dallas, I thought that was one of his best ones, the Rams game. I think a couple of weeks before, I’m not sure how many, but I thought he was starting to turn into that player and had a bad injury at the end that we thought would heal up fast. And it’s affected him all through this year. So that’s a setback now and that’s why he’s behind the eight-ball this year. But I don’t think his story is totally finished being written yet.”
Part of what was supposed to make the DeForest Buckner trade more palatable was getting a potential replacement in Javon Kinlaw and an electric wide receiver in Brandon Aiyuk in return. Instead, as we sit right now, Aiyuk is in target purgatory, and Kinlaw’s development is “on hold” 18 games into his career.
Now, to be fair, things can always change. There’s no reason Aiyuk can’t lead the team in receiving this week against Indianapolis. Shanahan himself spoke yesterday about where the team needs to improve coming out of the bye:
“We’ve got to get more turnovers on defense, have to be better in the red zone there. On offense, I think we have to be much better in situational football. We have to be much better throwing and catching. I’d like to generate a few more explosive runs. I think we’re running the ball somewhat decent, but if you don’t get big runs you’re never going to have those numbers. And then it just comes down to execution in some real critical situations.”
As we pointed out earlier this week, there are going to be opportunities for the 49ers to throw the ball against this Colts defense. They should be able to find space in the secondary to get guys the ball in positions to do damage after the catch. Hopefully, we begin to see the changes that Kyle talked about, and at least half of the return on the Buckner trade can start paying dividends.