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Ryans on Kinlaw: He’s being the player that we thought he could be

The 49ers DC also praised Talanoa Hufanga’s energy

San Francisco 49ers v Chicago Bears Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

48ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans’ message was clear Thursday: “Self-Inflicted penalties will kill you, so we have to do a better job of just playing smarter, continue with the same relentless effort, the mindset, but we just have to play smarter on a few of those penalties where you guys saw.”

Repeatedly, Ryans mentioned the self-imposed mistakes by the defense. Yet, at the same time, Ryans didn’t seem like someone overly concerned that we’d see the same results moving forward.

A part of that can be contributed to the play of safety Talanoa Hufanga, who Ryans said played well on multiple occasions: “He flew around, he played with the type of energy, the tenacity, the grit that you would hope for, he stuck out amongst the entire group, just his style of play and I’m very happy with the way he played. The style of play he played with, we just have to have all 10 guys playing like that.”

Obviously, he means the other ten players on the field. It’ll be a different test for Huf and the secondary this week as DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett present a significant challenge, and Geno Smith should use the entire field.

Ryans didn’t sound too concerned with Geno or Seattle, as he knows, much like last week, it’s on the defense to finish: “That’s one thing we didn’t do this past Sunday, we didn’t finish. We had opportunities to close that game out, and defensively, we didn’t get the job done. So, for us, the thing coming in is how much better can we play. How can we help support our team and put us in position to win the game?”

One player who will have a big say in the result is Javon Kinlaw. He started the game strong with a pressure and forced an errant throw in Week 1. With all the attention on the Seahawks starting two rookie offensive tackles, that’ll open up 1-on-1 matchups for Kinlaw and Arik Armstead to win inside. Ryans said Kinlaw did well in Week 1 and expects the former top-15 pick to get better the more he plays.

Ryans praised Kinlaw for his work against double teams and for being disruptive in general. Ryans talked about how much Javon helps the defense and said, “he’s being the player that we thought he could be.” It helps that Kinlaw is healthy and no longer dealing with a nagging injury:

“Definitely, I notice a huge difference in just how he’s moving around. His demeanor, he’s in a really great space and he’s playing well for us and he’s moving around well. He’s not worried about injuries. Anytime you can get some stuff off your plate, mentally. You’re not worried about injuries. You’re not worried about rehabbing. Now you have time to focus on really getting better as a player and that’s where Kinlaw is. His focus is in the right place and you see his game improving each week.”

Kinlaw seems to be in a better place mentally. Week 1 was a great start. During these next three weeks, the 49ers have a massive edge in the trenches defensively. Kinlaw couldn’t ask for a better opportunity.