Javon Kinlaw has chance to shine with Arik Armstead, Javon Hargrave injured

San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw (99)
San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw (99) / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

The 49ers are going to be without two starting defensive tackles against the Cardinals on Sunday, meaning Javon Kinlaw can take advantage.

There have been plenty of challenges facing San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw ever since the Niners selected him in Round 1 of the 2020 NFL Draft out of South Carolina.

Everything, from unfair expectations to frequent injuries and inconsistent production on the field, has led to San Francisco exploring other options, one of which was to essentially admit Kinlaw wasn't going to be a long-term fixture of the team.

Not only did the 49ers elect to decline Kinlaw's fifth-year option for 2024, but they also signed former Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave to a substantial free-agent deal last offseason.

Now a backup on a deep and talented Niners defensive line, Kinlaw can at least point to his health as getting back on track. He's appeared in all 13 games for San Francisco this season thus far, whereas he saw action in only 10 of them the last two years combined.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan attributed the increase in Kinlaw's health to a rigorous offseason workout program.

"What he did this whole offseason was as big of a commitment as anyone as I’ve ever been around," Shanahan said of Kinlaw. "You’re still so nervous for the guy because they can’t control their injuries. But, for him to be able to do this and play, now the tape looks what people anticipated and the whole League has respect and he’s only going to get better."

That's a good start in his career's reclamation. And there may be some opportunities coming his way shortly, too.

49ers DTs Arik Armstead, Javon Hargrave to miss Week 15 vs. Cardinals, Javon Kinlaw to get extra chance

The 49ers are going to be shorthanded for this Sunday's contest on the road against the 3-10 Arizona Cardinals, who still pose a threat with their ground game by averaging the NFL's third-best 4.7 yards per carry.

The Niners' D-line, meanwhile, is going to be extra shorthanded.

Starting defensive tackles, Hargrave (hamstring) and Arik Armstead (foot), are both ruled out with injuries, meaning San Francisco's depth will be tested.

And it's likely Kinlaw, a previous starter himself, will see the majority of snaps in both players' combined absences.

Along with fellow backup tackles like Kalia Davis and Kevin Givens, Kinlaw can use Sunday's bout as a means to showcase his true value. Considering he's scheduled to be a free agent this upcoming offseason, the ability to finish strong and in a featured role is highly valuable.

Kinlaw will tie a career-high in games played (14) this Sunday, and he's already surpassed a career-high in sacks this season with 2.5 and quarterback hits (five).

The 49ers and Cardinals square off on Sunday, Dec. 17 at 4:05 p.m. ET from State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Read more from Niner Noise