Javon Kinlaw isn’t having the breakout season 49ers need from him

Defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw #99 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw #99 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The 49ers were hoping for big things from third-year pro Javon Kinlaw in 2022, but injuries have gotten in the way again, clouding his impact.

If a high-profile NFL Draft pick doesn’t pan out or impress a lot during his rookie season, the inevitable “wait until next year” argument will apply.

For the San Francisco 49ers’ top pick of the 2020 draft, defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, his rookie season was overshadowed by the sheer number of injuries the Niners suffered over the course of the year, which resulted in him often being the most potent lineman at San Francisco’s disposal.

The thinking was he’d improve massively in year two, but chronic knee issues kept him from appearing in more than four games, and subsequent knee surgery was supposed to have cleaned all that up heading into 2022.

A 2022 campaign that was supposed to be his breakout year.

Unfortunately, for many reasons beyond his control, Kinlaw hasn’t been able to deliver that kind of impact which the 49ers hoped for. From a statistical perspective, he has a mere two tackles over three games played, and the Niners have fielded him for a mere 40 percent of their total defensive snaps.

For a player envisioned to be an every-down interior lineman, that’s notably disappointing.

Injuries now cloud Javon Kinlaw future with 49ers

It’s a good thing San Francisco’s D-line is so deep. Otherwise, it would be notably more difficult to overcome Kinlaw missing any lengthy period of time this season in light of not quite lighting up the stat sheet when he’s healthy.

Just ahead of the 49ers’ Week 4 game against the Los Angeles Rams, Kinlaw appeared visibly upset during pregame workouts, likely stemming from being told he would be inactive in the wake of another knee flare-up.

Knee issues had been problematic for Kinlaw coming out of college, and his absence from all but those four games in 2021 cast some doubts as to whether or not he’d ever fully justify the Niners’ investment in him.

Related Story: Javon Kinlaw knee issues cast shadow on 49ers’ draft process

Now in year three, and with another potential knee-related setback, San Francisco might be forced to ask itself whether or not it’ll be worth picking up the former first-round pick’s fifth-year option.

If not, and that decision doesn’t have to be made until much later, the 49ers may simply hope he’s able to rejuvenate his career elsewhere.

Hopefully, at least in his case, the latest injury news is just a minor setback.

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