Javon Kinlaw was only on the field for 15 plays against the Washington Commanders. But still left Levi’s Stadium with a smile.
For the first time since the September 18 home game versus the Seattle Seahawks, the 2020 first rounder for the San Francisco 49ers was finally healthy enough to play in a game on Christmas Eve.
Kinlaw ended up with one tackle while being on the football version of a pitch count in the 37-20 romp of Washington. He even was asking for more plays to his head coach Kyle Shanahan. But through it all, the 6-foot-5, 319-pounder told reporters he’s feeling better now.
“Yeah. Around the time I got hurt, you know before that, putting a lot of time into it. You know, it’s been a lot of weeks. I’ve been grinding on it. Yeah, I haven’t felt like this in awhile,” Kinlaw said.
Kinlaw Answers How Scary 49ers Defense Can be, Plus Sounds Off on Role in Key Stop
Without the presence of Kinlaw occupying the middle, the 49ers have gone through Arik Armstead, Hassan Ridgeway and against the Commanders, Michael Dwumfour and Jordan Willis.
Regardless of rotation, the 49ers have produced the league’s best defense with Kinlaw acknowledging that this can still be a scarier unit moving forward.
“The numbers are out there. It’s going to speak for itself,” Kinlaw said. “That’s the only thing I can say about it. I’m just happy to be in the mix. I was just happy to be out there. I was super excited on the sideline. I just said this awhile ago I’m like damn, they whopping a**. Crazy.”
But when Kinlaw was inserted into the lineup, he showed the kind of play that circled back to the reason the 49ers drafted him in the first place.
Facing fourth and goal and with the Commanders threatening to score first, it’s Kinlaw who fires off quick to clog the lane…which only gave Fred Warner enough space to attack and fill the running lane:
“You just get off the ball, I guess. That’s kind of what it was,” Kinlaw said regarding the crucial stop. “You know it’s going to be some type of physical and some type of run play. But you know, we stay strong right there like we’ve been staying strong all year on that type of stuff. So it wasn’t no surprise. Just glad to be a part of it.”
49ers Head Coach Revealed True Plan for Kinlaw
Shanahan himself revealed to the Bay Area media that Kinlaw would be limited. But witnessed a solid return.
“It seemed like he did well,” Shanahan said. “We were trying to play him 10 to 15 plays, I think on that last drive I asked where he was at because he went in there, but he was only at 13 at the time, so I think he got his two more and came out and he came up to me on the sidelines asking if he could play more.”
How did the first rounder who has battled chronic knee problems in his career feel?
“He said he feels good and I said, ‘it’s not about how you feel today, it’s about we want you to play more next week and the following week,’ so it seemed like a success for his first day back,” Shanahan said.