Javon Kinlaw vows to put the NFL on notice this season

Aug 11, 2023, 2:00 PM | Updated: 2:52 pm

Javon Kinlaw #99 of the San Francisco 49ers rushes the quarterback during the game against the Chic...

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 11: Javon Kinlaw #99 of the San Francisco 49ers rushes the quarterback during the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 11, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the 49ers 19-10. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

It’s been more than three years since the 49ers drafted Javon Kinlaw with the 14th overall pick, and he hasn’t produced much.

Struggling with injuries the last two seasons, the South Carolina native has only featured in 10 contests in 24 months. That all should change heading into the 2023 season, with the defensive tackle ready to make a splash in the trenches.

“I’m really a freak. The world gonna see, point blank, period,” Javon Kinlaw told reporters on Friday’s joint practice with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Kinlaw, 25, tore his ACL in Week 4 of the 2021 season, effectively keeping him sidelined for a full year. Guys of his stature often struggle to return to the field, even after surgery. That was the case for him, suffering from knee irritation that kept him out from Week 6 on last season.

Now another year removed, the highly-touted prospect feels like a whole new man on the field.

“I mean, a whole bunch,” Kinlaw said of the difference it makes in knowing his knee is right. “Playing with one-and-a-half legs is no good. You think about it every snap versus [having] two legs, two good legs. Body is improving as a whole. Just able to do some things I’ve never been able to do, so it gives me superior confidence.”

It helps that his mindset has also changed over the years, with Kinlaw staying in Northern California this summer. He wanted to stay close to the 49ers, not only so that they could evaluate his progress, but to prove that he can be a consistent presence for them in 2023.

“I’ve been grinding, nothing new. Only thing I added differently, I focused on a lot of mobility, a lot of stability and a lot of body mechanics. Just trying to make myself a better athlete as a whole and it’s paying off. So I’ve been grinding, you know, that’s what I do. That’s what got me to this point.

His work away from the team has seemingly paid off, coming into training camp and dominating.

Kinlaw was a menace in Santa Clara, routinely winning 1-on-1 matchups against the offensive line. He has also shown up in live drills, getting to the backfield on numerous occasions over the past two weeks.

It may not seem like much now, but the player has evolved dramatically, almost unrecognizable from a year ago.

“Just playing way more explosive, more violent. Just everything. When [the] pad level come down, I don’t believe nobody can stop me,” Kinlaw stated.

The big man will still need to prove it on the football field, with the preseason a perfect way to reintroduce himself to the league. If he makes good on early performances, he could find himself at the top of the defensive rotation, even starting games sparingly.

For now, though, he’s focused on improving his skills one practice at a time, determined to put any previous medical concerns in the rear-view window.

“I work at it every day,” Javon Kinlaw said. “When you work at something every day, you get superior confidence over it. It’s all mind over matter, and right now, I’m in a great mental space. And nothing’s going to stop my knee because I work at it every single day. It’s a must. I don’t go a day without working on it.”

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