Javon Kinlaw enjoyed an encouraging debut for the San Francisco 49ers, with his play a bright spot in a surprise season-opening defeat to the Arizona Cardinals.
Kinlaw, drafted as a replacement for the departed DeForest Buckner following his trade to the Indianapolis Colts, did not have the same impact his predecessor has done for the Niners in recent years.
Immediately replicating Buckner was always an unrealistic prospect for a player most agree has the physical tools to be a dominant force on the interior of the defensive line but who needs significant polish to realize his undoubted potential.
But Week 1 provided hope that it may not take too long for Kinlaw to begin having a significant influence on games. He registered a pair of pressures on Kyler Murray and had one tackle in the 24-20 loss.
He may not have lit up the stat sheet – Murray's elusiveness and ability to get the ball out quickly played a significant role in that – but the flashes he showed against the Cardinals suggest he could soon start racking up much more impressive numbers.
Week 2's clash with the New York Jets provides a recipe for Kinlaw to deliver a productive game. With edge rusher Dee Ford out with a neck injury, Arik Armstead may need to take more reps on the outside, potentially providing Kinlaw with the opportunity for a heavier workload – he played 39 snaps in Week 1.
If he does receive more playing time, then it will come against a Jets offensive line that struggled significantly in their opening defeat to the Buffalo Bills. According to the NFL's NextGen Stats, the Jets allowed a league-high pressure rate of 44.7% in Week 1, with Sam Darnold frequently forced to flee the pocket by a talented Bills defensive line.
Darnold is not immobile but he does not possess the scrambling ability of Murray. If the Jets do not improve in the trenches, then Kinlaw has the skill set to take advantage and help the Niners significantly disrupt the Jets' passing attack.
Kinlaw showcased power, lower-body flexibility and some intelligent hand usage in Week 1 and, in the video below, we look at three key plays from the loss to Arizona in this week's edition of Niner in Focus.
The spotlight was already on Kinlaw after the 49ers made the move to take him 14th overall. There will be more attention on him following an intriguing first act and, against the Jets, he is in a position to make his second a spectacular one.
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