D.J. Jones expects Javon Kinlaw, veterans to step up on 49ers' D-line

D.J. Jones expects Javon Kinlaw, veterans to step up on 49ers' D-line

Nose tackle D.J. Jones had to take a moment to collect himself when reminded that two of his teammates along the 49ers’ defensive line from last season are now with the Indianapolis Colts.

“I just shed a tear when you said that,” Jones said on a video call Thursday with Bay Area reporters.

Jones certainly did not minimize the losses of DeForest Buckner and Sheldon Day. But he spoke with confidence about the returning players who will be asked to pick up the slack, along with a talented newcomer who is expected to step into a starting role.

“Those are two guys that were leaders in our room,” Jones said. “Sheldon was the smartest guy that I had the pleasure to play with on and off the field. Buck was just an all-around leader, as far as showing by example. He was always on time. Buck was the guy. If you wanted to know how to do something right, watch Buck.”

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The 49ers sent Buckner to the Colts in a trade this offseason for a first-round draft pick, while Day signed with the Colts as a free agent.

“Just losing those two guys was tough, but we have enough leaders in the room, like Arik (Armstead), even a young (Nick) Bosa, Dee Ford -- guys that can step up and fill that role,” Jones said.

The big acquisition along the 49ers’ front four this offseason was South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, whom the club selected with the No. 14 overall draft pick.

“I’m just excited to play with a South Carolina guy, to be honest,” said Jones, who was born and went to high school in Piedmont, South Carolina.

Jones, who played at Ole Miss, and Kinlaw both went to the junior-college route before earning scholarships in the SEC.

“He’s an animal,” Jones said of Kinlaw. “I think he’ll add versatility to the D-line. I don’t feel like anybody is just one dimensional on our D-line, and he’s adding on to that puzzle. Eventually, it’s all going to show, and we’ll finish next time.”

[RELATED: 49ers' Dre Greenlaw thinks Javon Kinlaw could follow Nick Bosa as top rookie]

Kinlaw is expected to play three-technique and line up next to Jones on base downs. Jones said he is completely recovered from a high-ankle sprain that brought an early end to his season.

He and Kinlaw (6-foot-5, 319 pounds) figure to provide the 49ers with stout pair of interior linemen against the run. Both could factor into the equation as pass-rushers, too.

“Excuse my language, but he’s a grown-a-- man,” Jones said. “He’s bulky. He’s strong as all-get-out, which you can see on film.

“He’s driving linemen to the quarterback, which I love to see, which I know (49ers defensive line coach) Kris Kocurek loves to see. He looks like he has heavy hands. That’s one aspect to our D-line, we all have heavy hands, that he’ll add to the group.”

George Kittle's agent says 49ers tight end is one of a kind, 'a unicorn'

George Kittle's agent says 49ers tight end is one of a kind, 'a unicorn'

After the best three-season opening for a tight end in NFL history, George Kittle is eligible to receive a new contract from the 49ers before the 2020 season.

It would appear both sides should priorite fair contract before the club is allowed to get on the field again. The biggest issue is figuring out what is fair play for someone who does it all -- but does it at a position that ranks behind only running backs on the NFL pay scale.

“Right now, there is not a comp for George,” Kittle's agent, Jack Bechta, said on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “He’s unique. He’s a unicorn. He’s one of a kind.”

Kittle, a fifth-round draft pick from Iowa in 2017, has more receiving yards than any tight end through three seasons in NFL history. He is the only tight end in 49ers history with a 1,000-yard season – and he has done it in back-to-back years. He set the league record for tight ends in 2018 with 1,377 yards receiving.

He was named first-team All-Pro in 2019 after catching 85 passes for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns in 14 games.

Moreover, Kittle is a dominant blocking in the run game.

“George is a very special player. He needs a special contract,” Bechta said. “And those things take time for both sides. It’s a nice problem for everybody to have.

“At the end of the day, I trust the Niners will do the right thing and take good care of George, as they should. But I trust the process. I won’t comment where we’re at, or numbers or anything like that. But hopefully it gets done.”

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Hunter Henry is scheduled to be the highest paid tight end in the league this season at $10.6 million after the Los Angeles Chargers designated him as their franchise player. Austin Hooper became the league’s top-played tight end on a multi-year contract when the Cleveland Browns signed him as a free agent to a four-year deal that averages $10.5 million annually.

[RELATED49ers' John Lynch expects George Kittle contract extension 'in due time']

Meanwhile, Kittle is scheduled to make $2.133 million this season through the league’s proven performance escalator. Clearly, he is underpaid. But the 49ers have him under contract for the upcoming season.

“There are smart people at the Niners,” Bechta said. “They’ll figure it out. They love George, and George loves them. And hopefully it’ll all work out.”

49ers' Trent Williams excited to play with 'awesome' Jimmy Garoppolo

49ers' Trent Williams excited to play with 'awesome' Jimmy Garoppolo

Trent Williams has been named to seven Pro Bowls, but hasn’t exactly played with a lot of championship-caliber quarterbacks. Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins were the closest thing Williams got to consistent quarterback play during his nine seasons in Washington.

The 49ers acquired Williams in April for a pair of draft picks, hoping the left tackle can return to his previous form after missing all of last season due to a holdout and failed physical. While joining NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport on his podcast Monday, Williams expressed his excitement to block for 49ers’ signal-caller Jimmy Garoppolo.

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“I think Jimmy G is awesome,” Williams said on “RapSheet + Friends.” “I think he has proven that he’s a quarterback you can win with. In this league, it’s just hard to find.

“Having a quarterback that you know is gonna make the right read, the right throw, that has to allow Kyle (Shanahan), a chance to sleep at night.”

Williams has played in just two playoff games in his NFL career, and recognizes the importance of quality quarterback play for a team to be successful.

“From being in my position, not having a lot of success in the league, having a good quarterback and having a kind of musical chairs back there, I know the importance of it. So I’m extremely happy just to be part of an offense that really don’t need me to win. I (just) add to it.”

[RELATED: 49ers' Brandon Aiyuk's epic JUCO performance showed playmaking ability]

After years of residing in NFL purgatory, Williams now has the opportunity to compete for a championship and help the 49ers take the next step and try to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to the Bay Area.

Garoppolo has been pretty quiet throughout the offseason, but it’s hard to imagine he doesn’t feel the same way about having Williams defend his blindside in 2020.