There's a preexisting bar set pretty high for Javon Kinlaw. He's expected to immediately plug in to man the interior defensive line, previously assumed by Pro Bowl talent, DeForest Buckner. The expectations for the rookie also come in the midst of an abbreviated offseason.
But in his short time as a member of the 49ers – less than four months to be exact – veteran pass rusher Dee Ford has already begun to spot similarities between the rookie and knack of another 49ers first round pick.
"He wants to be a sponge, he wants to soak everything up and he wants to learn," Ford said. "He reminds me of Nick Bosa when he came in. He didn't say too much. When you're a first-round draft pick you can come in and… be a little entitled. That's not him. That's not in his DNA.
"(Javon's) everything that you want to see in a rookie."
Bosa missed the entire preseason last year after suffering an ankle sprain during practice that kept him sidelined until Week 1 of the regular season. Despite the lack of live reps, the rookie went on to put on a remarkable campaign, appearing in all 16 games and registering the fourth-most sacks by a 49ers rookie since 1982 with 9.0.
Conversely, this offseason has forced Kinlaw into his own set of challenges. In addition to making the adjustment from college to the NFL, the acclimation period between the offseason and Week 1 has been crammed into five weeks of redesigned training camp, void of any preseason reps. In a year where rookies typically undergo on-field workouts through OTAs and minicamps, virtual instruction became the norm, and DIY workouts were customary. During the draft, Kinlaw detailed his emphasis on cardio and endurance due to the lack of physical training caused by COVID. Despite the challenges of the offseason, Ford believes the simplicity of the 49ers defense will aid in the rookie's transition to the league.
"It's going to be a challenge, but honestly, this defense is simple," Ford said. "Coach Kris (Kocurek) and (Robert) Saleh – they're not going to put too much on his plate. They're going to simplify and they're going to bring him along. He's going to be able to do what he does best. He can rush the passer, and he's a big dude, so he can plug up some gaps and make plays in the run game. They're going to give him chances and opportunities to do what he does best. They're not going to overload him too much mentally. So, I don't worry about him."
Kinlaw adds to a stacked defensive line full of first round talent that was integral in the 49ers success in 2019. The experience and talent surrounding the rookie will be key in his transition to the NFL, in addition to his opportunities on Sundays. Nonetheless, if Kinlaw's Year 1 production can develop to anything along the lines of the 49ers reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year, then the 49ers have a good problem to have on their hands.