SANTA CLARA — Javon Kinlaw’s steady, methodical approach to the game already has started to pay off on the field, but the 49ers defensive lineman shared it is still the beginning of his journey.
Kinlaw always wants to be a factor on the field, but his first two NFL seasons did not go as planned. After a second knee procedure that ended his 2021 campaign, the South Carolina product is finally pain-free and the results of his hard work are evident in games.
Kinlaw shared with NBC Sports Bay Area that he is nowhere close to being a finished product.
“You just got to have patience, it’s not a sprint,” Kinlaw said this week. “You got to be in this thing for the long run. When you look at it like that, it helps you slow down and not really worry about the future. You just have to focus on one day at a time.”
When speaking to Kinlaw, you almost expect his voice to match his hulking physical appearance. But he is soft spoken, and his words are as well thought out as his play on the field. It is very clear that he has substantial goals in mind for his NFL career.
Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans has taken notice of how Kinlaw’s improved technique has had an effect on opposing quarterbacks. The lineman’s 6-foot-5 frame and lengthy reach has caused errant throws and misfires by opponents already.
Ryans is excited by the thought of Kinlaw’s full potential.
“What I see from Kinlaw is growth,” Ryans said on Thursday. “It’s steady growth, each and every week. He’s getting better and better. So, who knows what it’ll be mid-season, end of the season, how good he’ll be playing, but I think it’s going to be really great for us.”
Kinlaw’s life has been filled with adversity, which is what he credits for his mental approach to the game. The 24-year-old has been keeping his head down, making each day count, fueled by the same motivation he has had since he was a child.
Not looking too far ahead has kept Kinlaw grounded and focused, which has influenced his improvement on the field. The imposing lineman sets small goals for each day and each practice because that will benefit him in the long run.
“The little things always take care of the big things especially with me, that’s just who I am,” Kinlaw said. “I pay attention to the small details because small details are what take your game to the next level.”
Kinlaw’s three pressures through the club’s first two games don’t necessarily reflect his impact on the game. Increased double teams are how opponents have been able to neutralize the lineman’s ability to get into the backfield, but that has helped free up his fellow linemen in games.
“I’m happy where Kinlaw is going,” Ryans said. “It’s exciting because I see him continuing to get better. That’s the cool part about him.”