49ers Practice Report: Javon Kinlaw becomes ‘an issue’ for the offensive line

Photo Credit: Chris Mezzavilla

After the most energetic practice of training camp, with the 49ers and roughly 20,000 fans in Levi’s Stadium, a drop in energy was to be expected. But while the pads came off on Sunday and a huge number of veterans and rehabbing players were absent from or limited in practice, there wasn’t that drop off.

Kyle Shanahan, who had a quickfire trip to Canton, Ohio, for John Lynch’s Hall of Fame party — before his induction on Sunday — said he was worried about the energy level falling off, but was pleasantly surprised when it didn’t.

That was despite the following players rehabbing:

  • Azeez Al-Shaair (knee sprain, looks like he’ll return quicker than expected, which was Week 1)
  • Samson Ebukam (leg swelling)
  • MyCole Pruitt (calf)
  • Jaquiski Tartt (toe)
  • Arik Armstead

The following players did not participate:

  • Nick Bosa
  • Jalen Hurd
  • Kyle Juszczyk
  • Jimmie Ward
  • Jalen Hurd
  • Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles

Both Dee Ford and Fred Warner sat out of 11-on-11s. That meant that second-year linebacker Jonas Griffith got some extended reps at both sam linebacker and at middle linebacker with the first team. The same happened for rookie safety Talanoa Hufanga, playing alongside Tavon Wilson.

The tale of the day was Javon Kinlaw absolutely wreaking havoc, and the entire defensive line unit talking trash to the offense. They caused the offensive line to false start multiple times, especially towards the end, during two- and four-minute drills, which frustrated Kyle Shanahan.

One defensive linemen joked, “They don’t like us talking,” to which another defensive lineman responded, “I’m not stopping.”

Kinlaw sure as hell didn’t stop. He was omnipresent, breaking out spin moves, two-hand swipes, stutter-step rip moves, really getting into his bag. It was a two-hand swipe to beat Laken Tomlinson with ease and pressure/potentially sack the quarterback which was the most eye popping. But he also got one over on Alex Mack, when he bursted through the line, charging after and chatting with Jimmy Garoppolo, who made what would have been a life-saving dump pass in a game situation.

Shanahan was succinct in his assessment of Kinlaw, who’s clearly poised for a breakout season.

“He was having fun out there today. He showed up a lot,” Shanahan said. “He was an issue.”

It got to the point where you’d identify Kinlaw (pretty easy to find him) before the snap and just lock in on his reps.

He wasn’t the only defensive lineman who thrived, though. Just like was the case in Saturday’s practice, Maurice Hurst and especially Eddie Yarbrough feasted against the second- and third-team offensive lines, eliciting at least one “Thatta boy, Eddie!” from defensive line coach Kris Kocurek.

On the other side of the ball, Jimmy Garoppolo was solid. There have been a fair few overreactions to his play (don’t go online folks, and for that matter, I recommend you don’t read, either), but he performed better than Lance. What wasn’t an overreaction was the awe in response to the best throw of the day, which came from Garoppolo.

It damn well might have been the best throw I’ve ever seen from Garoppolo. That’s not to say Garoppolo hasn’t made some good throws in his time, but he’s always had difficulty challenging outside the hashes more than about 25-plus yards down the field. On Sunday, he launched a 40-air-yard ball to Deebo Samuel with pinpoint accuracy; it hit Samuel in stride for a 50-yard touchdown. It was a flawless throw.

Of course, there were flawed throws, too, like a bad, low screen to Josh Hokit, a high throw over the middle which Emmanuel Moseley made a play on to break up, and a low throw on an immediate, quick slant off the snap.

But those throws were outweighed by the more impressive ones. One of his incompletions was an intentionally low throw which Samuel had to dive for, and which he probably should have caught; it was in a tight window which Garoppolo navigated well.

Trey Lance, meanwhile, looked a little disjointed at times. There was yet another fumble on the exchange with a running back, which Shanahan said is on both Lance and the running back. He opened with a bad incompletion to Ross Dwelley and a throw to his right, which Jauan Jennings couldn’t make a play on, plus a bad low throw behind Josh Hokit in drills backed up against the goal line.

The read option also didn’t work as well, but that’s perhaps a product of the second team defense keying in on it while also having a massive advantage against poor offensive blockers.

That’s all to say, Lance still looks really impressive, but the flaws you’d expect with a rookie are showing up, especially when he’s getting pressured behind a horrible offensive line and Garoppolo isn’t. He had a few beautiful throw, like one to Ross Dwelley which split the high-low double team on him. He also avoided a sack from Yarbrough to run for what would have been a first down and hit Trent Sherfield on a drive-saving sideline throw.

I’m not listing completions here given that it was an unpadded practice, but Garoppolo definitely looked crisper on Sunday. Again, that’s with the first-team offensive line. It seems that will be a point of perpetual frustration until the 49ers give Lance first-team reps.

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