It’s not good news, but the 49ers could potentially lose second-year defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw to season-ending knee surgery.
Both before and after the San Francisco 49ers‘ Week 7 Sunday Night Football loss to the Indianapolis Colts, fans and pundits regularly asked whether or not the Niners did right by trading Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, a locker-room leader and fan favorite, to the Colts early in 2020.
Hindsight will continue to pan out in the coming months and years, of course. But the direct impact of that trade resulted in San Francisco getting a first-round NFL Draft pick and subsequently using it on former South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw.
After a so-so rookie season a year ago, Kinlaw was expected to take a massive leap in year two, especially with a fully restocked defensive line getting EDGEs Nick Bosa and Dee Ford back from injury.
It didn’t happen, though. And now, Kinlaw’s news isn’t great. At all.
49ers may lose Javon Kinlaw to season-ending knee surgery
Kinlaw was held out of the game against Indianapolis due to knee problems, further casting shadows against the Buckner trade. Head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters there was a possibility the 49ers would consider placing Kinlaw on injured reserve, meaning he’d miss a minimum of three games but would be afforded the time to recover from what’s been a chronic knee problem.
On Wednesday, though, Shanahan revealed to reporters Kinlaw might require season-ending knee surgery, citing the issue hasn’t improved despite the limited workload and sitting out Week 7.
Kinlaw is currently in Southern California getting further options, but the news certainly isn’t great.
Since being selected at No. 15 overall in the 2020 draft, Kinlaw has appeared in 18 games, four this season, and has logged 41 tackles, three of which were for a loss, five quarterback hits, 1.5 sacks and returned an interception for a touchdown.
While Buckner’s shoes were going to be massive to fill anyway, it’s safe to say Kinlaw is falling well short of even the lowest of expectations for a first-round pick.
Arik Armstead believes Javon Kinlaw will bounce back
The initial reaction is probably going to side closer towards Kinlaw being a draft bust. Based on the stats and now his injury issues, that’s probably a fair prediction.
But defensive tackle Arik Armstead isn’t having any of that.
On an appearance with KNBR 680’s Murph & Mac Show (h/t 49ers Webzone), Armstead feels his fellow defensive linemate could end up taking a similar path he experienced early in his own career:
"Early in my career, I was on injured reserves my second and third year, and that was tough. It’s just beyond your control, not being able to be out there, not being able to get those reps, get better, help your team.A lot of tough times, but J.K. has been through a lot worse throughout his life. Getting to know him, a young man that was homeless at a time as a kid and had a really tough upbringing. And tough times breed tough people, and I know he’s going to bounce back from this and be better moving forward. And I can’t wait to have him back on the field."
Related Story: Javon Kinlaw knee issues cast doubts on 49ers draft process
Considering Kinlaw was once homeless as a child, it’s certainly safe enough to root for him in that regard.
Now, the hope is for fans to be able to root for him on the field, too, potentially looking back at this most recent setback as just a minor “bump in the road.”
Still, landing on injured reserve with a season-ending injury won’t help matters all in the immediate future.