49ers expect Kinlaw to feast on opponents as he does squirrels


First-year defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans envisions it all starting with a defensive line that will be turned loose to attack in 2021.

Javon Kinlaw, who enters his second NFL season after the 49ers drafted him at No. 13 overall a year ago, figures prominently into that plan.

After one season of experience, Kinlaw is being counted upon to hunt down opponents with the football.

The 49ers just hope he satisfies his appetite for ballcarriers like ... well, like, apparently, he feasts on squirrels back home.

Kinlaw drew a lot of attention on social media shortly after his rookie season when he posted a video of himself with a freshly extinguished gray squirrel in his mouth.

His teammates, along with everyone else, certainly took notice of Kinlaw’s unique offseason activity.

“Looks like he’s wild out there in the jungle, in the woods,” 49ers teammate Jimmie Ward said. “I don’t know where. South Carolina?

“I just need him to be that same wild man on the field, and I know he will be.”

Kinlaw shot the video — after shooting the squirrel — less than two weeks after he concluded his rookie season with the 49ers.

He explained on Wednesday that it was just a normal day-in-the-life activity. But he admits he now wishes he had not posted the video to his Instagram account.

“I was just doing a little hunting, that was it,” Kinlaw said. “That’s what I do all the time. I just decided to put it on the ’gram, which I shouldn’t have.”

Kinlaw appeared in 14 games with 12 starts as a rookie. He registered 33 tackles with 1.5 sacks. His biggest play came in a late-November win over the Los Angeles Rams when he intercepted Jared Goff and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown.

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Ryans said on Wednesday he envisions Kinlaw as one of the team's breakout performers in 2021.

“Kinlaw is looking awesome,” Ryans said. “Kinlaw has been able to really hone in and focus on his techniques which he missed coming in as a rookie. He is going to take a huge jump this year."

The 49ers have collected defensive linemen this offseason like acorns being stored for the cold winter months. But Kinlaw is no rotational player. He is being counted on to climb the tree of top defensive linemen in the league.

And at the end of the season, he is expected to have the pelts on his wall to prove it.

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