Javon Kinlaw’s projected role with 49ers in 2020
In 2016, DeForest Buckner’s first year in San Francisco, the team’s top pick from that year’s draft ended up playing a whopping 1,006 defensive snaps (87.3 percent) showing almost zero rotation up front.
Granted, Buckner was already emerging as the team’s best defender amid a 2-14 season, so that might not be too surprising.
San Francisco 49ers
Luckily, Javon Kinlaw isn’t joining a defense comprised mostly of second- and third-rate players. The Niners defense, particularly along the defensive line, is already elite. And while the depth isn’t quite as good as it was a year ago, there’s no reason to assume defensive coordinator Robert Saleh will be forced to play Kinlaw that sheer number of snaps right out of the gate.
Instead, one should probably expect somewhere around 75 percent this season.
Kinlaw also won’t bounce back and forth between defensive end and tackle, rather spending his time in a 3-technique position vacated by Buckner. He’s plenty good enough to be in there on base downs against the run, but it wouldn’t be too shocking to see him specialize early on pass-rushing downs, too. After all, that’s where his presence was mostly felt last year at South Carolina.
The most important factor, however, will be getting Kinlaw to a point where he can eat up multiple blockers and still wreak havoc against opponents’ offensive lines, which should translate into more one-on-one matchups for San Francisco’s other pass-rushers.
This was the prime reason the Niners brought aboard Kinlaw, hoping he could fill the same kind of role Buckner had for the better part of the last four seasons.
If it works, the 49ers defensive line stays elite. Perhaps it gets even better.