49ers

Kinlaw, 49ers' depth D-linemen must step up after injuries

49ers

The 49ers lost defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas to potentially long-term injuries early in Sunday's 31-13 win over the lowly New York Jets, but the defense as a whole didn't miss a beat.

The Jets gained 277 yards on 62 offensive plays, punting or turning the ball over on downs on seven of their 10 drives. New York didn't score a touchdown until its last drive deep into fourth-quarter garbage time, and converted just 5 of 16 third and fourth downs.

NBC Sports Bay Area analyst Ian Williams, a former 49ers D-lineman, credited a mix of new(er) and familiar faces stepping up in Bosa and Thomas' absence.

"For both of those guys to get hurt the way they did is very tough, but I saw a lot of production," Williams said Sunday. "I saw a lot of future potential from Javon Kinlaw, D.J. Jones and Kevin Givens. I thought those three guys [on the] interior played very, very well. Arik Armstead -- I don't even need to say his name. He played very well, too. And with those guys right there, that's the reason why they were able to hold the New York Jets -- even though they're devoid of a lot of talent right now."

Armstead is a fixture on the 49ers' defensive line, and he signed a five-year contract extension worth up to $85 million this offseason. He sacked Jets quarterback Sam Darnold and defensed a pass after Bosa and Thomas left the game.

 

None of Jones, Kinlaw and Givens played more than 50 percent of the 49ers' defensive snaps in a Week 1 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Jones is in his fourth season, whereas Kinlaw -- one of the 49ers' two first-round draft picks in 2020 -- and Givens appeared in their second and third career games, respectively, on Sunday. The trio combined for 10 tackles while steadying the 49ers up front in Williams' eyes.

Williams said all three players grow into their newfound roles with more practice reps coming their way, but the 49ers can't just rely on them in order to remain an elite defense. With the 49ers fearing Bosa tore his ACL and believing Thomas also injured (but didn't tear) his, they'll need help on the edge, too.

Dee Ford didn't play Sunday, but Kerry Hyder did. Dion Jordan (10.5 sacks in 50 career games) is on the 49ers' practice squad, while Ziggy Ansah (50.5 sacks in 91 games) left the the 49ers' facility without signing a contract after his workout last Tuesday. Williams believes the 49ers need to bring in multiple pass rushers, with an eye on replicating the success of a 2019 midseason signing.

"Damontre Moore [was a] guy who came in last year and played very, very well," Williams said of the D-lineman who re-signed with the 49ers last November after being among the team's final training camp cuts.

"They're gonna need a couple other guys who come in the same mold as Damontre Moore, and be able to step off the street and be able to give them production as a defensive end and at that defensive tackle spot, because they're gonna need as many guys as they can."

Moore, signed to replace Ronald Blair after he tore his ACL, recorded five combined tackles, a QB hit and a forced fumble in two games with the 49ers last season. He sustained a fractured forearm and missed the remainder of the season, ultimately signing with the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent in September.

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In order to follow in Moore's footsteps, Williams said Kinlaw, Jones and Givens must train and practice differently heading into Week 3 in order to prepare for playing additional snaps. Those three, plus whichever edge rusher(s) the 49ers sign to the 53-man roster this week, will be under pressure to perform next Sunday against the New York Giants. 

While the composition of the 49ers' defensive line will change, their championship expectations won't.

"Now you're gonna be out there starting, and now this team is gonna count on you because ... this team's still a playoff [contender], Super Bowl or bust," Williams continued. "So, they're gonna need guys like Javon Kinlaw and possibly other guys who step off the street and then step on the field and still be productive."