Do we think Javon Kinlaw will ever be fully healthy? Generally speaking, humans that size that once had injury issues don’t all of a sudden stop having those injury issues.
The Niners picked Kinlaw No. 14 overall in 2020, despite numerous injury concerns — including that he’s at risk of developing arthritis in both knees. Kinlaw had a bumpy rookie season with occasional flashes of greatness, including a pick-six against the Los Angeles Rams, but he sustained a knee injury in December of 2020 and hasn’t been the same ever since.
“I’ve had Tartt, Tavon [Wilson], Jimmie Ward, these guys that are really trying to take me under their wing and continue to help me grow,” Hufanga shared. “And so, I’m just excited to go out there and have fun. I think that’s the most important thing. If you can do that — we’ve been playing football our whole lives — if we can do that, we can just enjoy it as much as we can.”
“My locker-mate, Mohamed Sanu, he even tries to take me under his wing. He teaches me the offensive side of the game and tells me how to take care of my body and continue to communicate when I’m on the field. And communication just continues to help everybody. So, when we can do that, great things can happen.”
“I thought he struggled coming out of the gates last year,” Shanahan continued. “And this year, I felt the opposite. I thought he played three well-played games, the first two games, especially versus Detroit. Philly, our whole offense got off to a slow start, but I thought Jimmy played well overall.
“And Green Bay, I thought it was his best game. He led us on a big comeback, made some huge plays in that game on third down. That gave us a chance to win it until Aaron [Rodgers] took that from us with those last two plays of the game. And then he was playing at a high level versus Seattle until he got injured.”
Kentavius Street will take the lion’s share of the defensive tackle snaps that would have gone to Kinlaw. Street’s career thus far has been marked by his own knee injuries, especially the one he suffered in the run-up to the 2018 draft. Finally healthy again this year, Street received rave reviews from defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans for how he played in training camp.
Street doesn’t have Kinlaw’s size or brute strength, but he moves well for an interior lineman and was used as a defensive end at times in college and early on with the 49ers. There are others — including Kevin Givens, who will come off of injured reserve on Saturday — who also will fill in. But the 49ers are especially looking for Street to rise to the challenge and take his game to another level.
The bad news is outside linebacker Khalil Mack will miss his first game with the Bears since 2018, as he lets his ailing foot rest. Thankfully, outside linebacker Robert Quinn was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list. In more good news, defensive tackle Akiem Hicks looks primed for his return after missing last week’s game.