The 49ers wanted to ease rookie Javon Kinlaw into the NFL. The newest member of a feared front, the South Carolina product was expected to have time to acclimate to the professional game before being asked to provide a major contribution.
But things can change quickly.
With Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas suffering torn ACLs in the 49ers' Week 2 win over the New York Jets, Kinlaw now will be asked to carry a bigger load earlier than expected.
While he hasn't recorded a sack through his first two games, former 49ers defensive lineman and current NBC Sports Bay Area analyst Ian Williams has liked what he's seen from Kinlaw early on.
"I've seen a lot of good from Javon Kinlaw," Williams said. "Not only has he been active in the run game, he has been active in the passing game as well. Now, he will continue to develop other pass-rushing moves other than the bull rush. If you've watched the film you've seen a couple of clips of him using the swipe move that Nick Bosa uses a lot and he'll continue to use that. He'll continue to use his bull flip, because once the offensive linemen really start to see how strong he is, they will start to sit, and once they sit you will see him kind of be able to pull as a counter to the bull pass rush that he has.
"In the run game, once he gets into a routine of going against offensive linemen who are as good and as strong as him, his technique is going to get even better. Once he starts to lift his up and not be so top-heavy, he will see his targets better and be able to keep his balance and stay in the B-gap. There comes a time when he's in the B-gap and there's a stretch to or away from him and he's jumping out straight ahead and not reading the offensive lineman and he's losing his leverage and not reading his target and he's getting off-balance periodically. But I see flashes of potential and I also see him dominating the line of scrimmage every time he is out there."
While the spotlight will shine brighter on Kinlaw now after the injuries to Bosa and Thomas, Williams wants people to temper their expectations for the No. 14 overall pick.
"I feel like people outside shouldn't have the highest expectations for him even though that's what you want because he's a first-round pick," Williams said, "You're not going to always draft a Nick Bosa that's going to come and be rookie Defensive Player of the Year. But he has the chance now, the opportunity, he's going to get a lot of reps. ... Now, he's been thrown into the fire. Either you're going to cook or you're going to learn how to cook in that fire.
"So I think he's only going to get better and I'm sure the added pressure he's under now is only going to make him more consistent as the season goes."
Kinlaw has shown flashes of potential during the 49ers' first two games. But the 49ers now will ask the rookie to provide more of an impact with Bosa and Thomas sidelined.
It's not fair to expect him to have a Bosa-like impact, but the 49ers need Kinlaw now more than ever. He certainly has the talent to live up to the task.
Programming note: Watch Ian Williams give more great insights and analysis on “49ers Pregame Live” this Sunday at 9 a.m. PT and on 49ers Postgame Live immediately after the 49ers-Giants game on NBC Sports Bay Area Plus.