Why Bosa was impressed by Kinlaw's 49ers debut in Week 1

Javon Kinlaw

There are high expectations for 49ers first-round draft pick Javon Kinlaw, but his toughest critic might be the defensive lineman himself. 

Kinlaw said very few words in his first media session since making his NFL debut on Thursday, calling his performance “below average.” Reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa believes otherwise. 

“He’s hard on himself which any football player is hard on themselves,” Bosa said. “Sometimes it’s tough to see the progress every day, so you kind of get anxious and you want to see your improvements day by day, and that’s not realistic.” 

Kinlaw didn’t show up much on the stat sheet from the 49ers’ 24-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t affect their offense. According to Pro Football Focus, the rookie earned an 81.4 overall grade with two quarterback pressures and one run stop.

Bosa shared that he has seen marked improvements from Kinlaw since his arrival in Santa Clara. He also believes that the rookie just is scratching the surface of what he will be able to accomplish once the techniques he is learning become second nature. 

“He’s probably at 50 percent of his potential just to give you an idea,” Bosa said. “Not saying that he doesn’t have technique or anything, but once he really gets the hang of it, and figures out what he can do, then I think he'll really be a great player.”


Kinlaw has big shoes to fill as an indirect replacement for DeForest Buckner. During the offseason, the 49ers acquired the 13th overall pick of the 2020 NFL draft for the Pro Bowl defensive lineman, and then traded down one spot where they selected Kinlaw. 

RELATED: Kinlaw's approach to adversity: 'Go punch it in the face'

The 6-foot-5, 319-pound lineman is known for his incredible size and strength, but Bosa believes there’s more than that to come from Kinlaw. 

“I’d say it’s super encouraging how he played in the first game,” Bosa said. “You could just see a lot of the stuff he was doing was just natural ability and just reacting and instincts which is something you don’t teach.

“Obviously he’s got to learn a few things and just learn how to use his God-given gifts but for him to go out and make a couple plays right off the bat, against a really tough team to make plays against, it’s super encouraging.”