One of the biggest takeaways I have had through the first couple of weeks of training camp is the energy Javon Kinlaw brings to practice day in and day out. Kinlaw looks leaner, more explosive, and locked into the point that it stands out every time he takes the field.
The exuberance being displayed by Kinlaw is occurring between drills, as much as when he is on the field actively participating in whatever drills are taking place. Kinlaw has been moving with a sense of confidence, but more importantly, joy, in a way that feels different from years past.
Kinlaw’s defensive line coach, Kris Kocurek, spoke with the media on Thursday and provided a glimpse into where Kinlaw is both physically and mentally.
“He has worked really really hard. He’s changed his body, he is slimmer, his body fat is down, he’s moving really good. Now it’s just a matter of stacking these reps, we started out lower, as long as everything keeps going on track we’ll increase it as time goes on, and hopefully by Chicago you’ll all see the finished product. But I’m very excited about where he is at. Big, long, explosive player that we feel like can reach at the line of scrimmage and be disruptive”
Kocurek then touched on the difference he’s seen from Kinlaw this year compared to last season.
He’s finally healthy. He finally feels like he can go out there and be a healthy Javon Kinlaw. Last year was a struggle, it was a day to day struggle for him. It’s hard when you go out there and you don’t feel like you can put you’re best out there because you’re hurt. He was trying to battle through it, it’s part of the NFL, but he’s in a good mental spot right now.
This was not an easy road to recovery, as Kinlaw had to persevere through numerous obstacles on his journey through rehab to get back to where he is now. Kocurek shed some light on the kind of work ethic Kinlaw has and how dedicated he is to being the best player that he can be.
I see him continuously working, from a week after the NFC Championship game, where all the players exit and are they’re doing their exit interviews, Javon Kinlaw was back here, grinding, everyday. Then we go through the offseason, and he’s still here grinding with his teammates, his teammates show back up, he’s grinding with them, he’s working with them. Then they all leave, and go on summer vacation for five weeks, and Javon Kinlaw is still here. Still grinding. I’m getting videos from Javon showing all the work he’s put in, he’s just put a lot of work into where he’s at right now.
It has been a gradual and methodical process to get Kinlaw back to a level where he is ready to be the player that the talent he possesses would dictate, and Kocurek mentioned that there is going to be a period where Kinlaw will be knocking rust off as he resumes his regular football activities.
There’s going to be a process of him getting the football aspect of it, anytime you miss an extended period of time, there’s rust you have to knock off. There’s small things, for the big guys inside it’s pad level stuff, it’s hand placement, it’s the knock back that we’re trying to create through our hips. It’s not just running off the football trying slide through a gap, there’s a lot of technical aspects to playing attack football the way we play it. Now it’s just a matter of getting the reps in, knocking the rust off, getting the pad level where we want it, the stance and alignment ironed out exactly like we want it. Once all that’s done, and the reps are stacked, and the install is all in, I just can’t wait to watch him play football on Sunday’s. It’s been awhile.
Based on Kocurek’s statements and what I’ve seen up close from Kinlaw during camp, it’s easy to have high expectations for the kind of impact he can have on this defense if he continues to trend in the right direction in relation to his health.
Talent has never been an issue for Kinlaw, and to give a little refresher of just how much potential is there, I’m going to add a couple of cut-ups that I made showcasing what skillset he brings to the table.
It all starts with the raw power. From a pure strength standpoint, Kinlaw is in rarified air, particularly when you factor in just how massive he is, which is also incredible when you see the disparity in size between him and the other gargantuan human beings alongside him on a football field.
Check out this pass-rushing rep from Kinlaw’s first game in the NFL. This is Week 1 vs. Arizona from the 2020 season, and Kinlaw is going to take this rep out of the three technique.
Fantastic pass rushing rep by Javon Kinlaw out of the 3T— Jordan Elliott (@JLeeElliott) July 25, 2022
The pressure generated by Kinlaw up the middle forces an errant throw and the play results in an incompletion pic.twitter.com/vv4nj0Tb5I
You can see the burst and explosion in the get-off, with great hand placement to the inside shoulder of the right guard to clear a path to Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray. The pressure up the A-Gap from Kinlaw forces an errant throw and incompletion from Murray.
Later on, in this game, Kinlaw had his power on full display, destroying right guard J.R. Sweezy in a violent bull rush from an overloaded front on the left side of the defensive line.
Javon Kinlaw has a level of power and physicality to his game that simply cannot be taught— Jordan Elliott (@JLeeElliott) July 24, 2022
You either have it or you don’t, and Kinlaw 100% has it
Watch what he does to Cardinals guard JR Sweezy on this rep pic.twitter.com/yW1j04b37K
Kinlaw had a rep last season during the 49ers' Week 2 win in Philadelphia that encapsulates his strong and disruptive strength. Kinlaw is lined up in the three-technique and engages with pro bowl right guard Brandon Brooks.
Kinlaw opts for the long arm and is able to drive Brooks back into the lap of quarterback Jalen Hurts as he is in the process of releasing the football.
The hand placement could be a little better, as you’d like to see that power get driven to the gap shoulder rather than the chest plate, but again hand placement is one of the small things Kocurek mentioned would improve with more reps for Kinlaw.
With the departure of DJ Jones in free agency, the 49ers will be counting on Kinlaw to be a gap stuffing, man-eating force in the run game while also having the ability to wreak havoc from the three-technique when teams attack the 49ers defense through the air.
All signs point to a healthy Kinlaw playing a pivotal role on this loaded front, and he has the potential to take this unit to the next level with the out of this world physical traits that played a major role in him being selected in the first round the 2020 draft. If he can stay healthy, the sky is the limit for him and the 49ers' defensive line as a whole, which is boasting the deepest group it has had under the Kyle Shanahan regime.