When the dust had settled on defensive end Nick Bosa’s first season with the San Francisco 49ers, he was named the NFL‘s Defensive Rookie of the Year after racking up nine regular season sacks and elevating the 49ers’ defensive front to the best in the NFL.
Ahead of the 2020 season, second-year San Francisco linebacker Dre Greenlaw thinks defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, the latest first-round pick to join the 49ers defensive line, could replicate Bosa’s rookie-year success.
Greenlaw spoke to reporters Wednesday about a variety of subjects, but his words on Kinlaw were especially notable.
“I think the way that Bosa came and played and showed his talent, I think Kinlaw can do the same thing and very well may be the defensive rookie of the year,” Greenlaw said. “I think he has that potential. It’s going to be exciting to be behind him and get a chance to play with him.”
Kinlaw joins San Francisco as the 14th overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft and with an impressive resume from his time at South Carolina, which saw Kinlaw consistently perform against some of the SEC’s best.
Greenlaw Speaks Further on Kinlaw
The 49ers found themselves in an unfortunate scenario this past offseason with two Pro Bowl-caliber defensive lineman in Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner. Both were deserving of new, huge contracts, but San Francisco could only afford one, and had to cut their losses in order to keep the core of the team that went 15-4 and made Super Bowl LIV.
49ers General manager John Lynch made the call to deal Buckner and secured a 2020 first-round pick by sending the former Oregon Duck to the Indianapolis Colts. He then followed up with the sensible move of replacing the massive presence on the 49ers, with another in Kinlaw.
Greenlaw said that he understood why the 49ers wanted Kinlaw thanks to the defensive tackle’s size and production.
“Just an explosive, big guy that can really move,” Greenlaw said. “He’s going to be a perfect three-technique for us and the way that we play. It’s going to be exciting to see his potential.”
Greenlaw added to his comment about Kinlaw’s fit, saying he trusts head coach Kyle Shanahan and the rest of the 49ers staff to get the defensive tackle up and running.
“Lynch and coach (Kyle) Shanahan, the guys they get, they do great job of developing them and getting guys who are ready to come in and play and I think we’ll have a couple guys who can come in and definitely fill in for Buckner.”
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Greenlaw on THAT Play Against the Seahawks
When the NFC West title and massive playoff implications are on the line, every player has to step up.
Greenlaw exemplified that against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 17, making the last-second, game-winning hit that stopped Seattle linebacker Jake Hollister from breaking the goalline.
Some time later, Greenlaw remembers it fondly but keeps the moment in perspective.
“I know how big of a play it was at the time and what it helped us get to, but it doesn’t seem any bigger or smaller now,” Greenlaw said. “It was a memorable play and I’m glad to have been a part of it. I’m also really excited for next season. Now that I know I can make that play once, I want to do things like that over and over again.”
The last of his 92 regular-season tackles was easily his most important, but the 49ers must be encouraged to see that he’s focused on stepping forward in his sophomore year.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, MT. Follow and reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier.