Javon Kinlaw ‘not worried’ about role in loaded Jets defense

The Jets decided to beef up their defensive line in the early days of free agency this year, signing DT Javon Kinlaw to a one-year deal.

Before hitting the open market for the first time in his career, Kinlaw spent his first four seasons as a pro with the San Francisco 49ers, who selected him with the 14th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Jets head man Robert Saleh and defensive line coach Aaron Whitecotton made a huge impact on him during their early days together with the 49ers, which is why he says he had his sights set on Gang Green from the get-go.

“I’m glad we were able to get something done,” he said. “I kind of banked on it coming into free agency. Saleh played a big part in drafting me in 2020. I always loved being around him and his energy because I could tell that he really believed in me.

“Whitecotton was our assistant d-line coach my rookie year, which played a big role as well. I always loved him and looked up to him. I reached out a lot about how I can get better, so it’s like a full circle moment for me.”

Kinlaw played some of the best football of his career during that rookie campaign under the guidance of Saleh and Whitecotton, recording 33 tackles, 1.5 sacks, four QB hits, three tackles for loss, and an interception returned for a TD across 12 games.

He was struck by the injury bug after that, though, appearing in just 10 games across the 2021 and 2021 seasons.

Kinlaw appeared in all 17 games last season and he went back to being a steady member of the ferocious 49ers defensive front, recording a career-high 3.5 sacks and six QB hits.

Now joining another top-tier defense with the Jets, the 26-year-old is hoping to be able to build off that breakout campaign.

“I dealt with a lot of things I couldn’t control early on,” he said. “The way I got hurt and the injuries, I had no control over how all of that happened. But I came to work every day and kept a positive attitude through it all.

“Last year was my first year playing every game and that just happened because I put so much into it. Every year you have to put a little more into it with what you’re bringing to the table in training camp. I’m excited to see what a second year under my belt is going to look like.”

It’s still unknown if Kinlaw will be an every-down piece for a Jets defensive front consisting of Quinnen Williams, Solomon Thomas, Leki Fotu, and the recently acquired Hasson Reddick but if you ask him he’s ready for whatever is thrown his way.

“I’m not worried about starting or anything like that,” he said. “I’m just here to fit in where I fit in. I’m looking forward to getting in with the young, hungry group and just a bunch of ballplayers all across the field on both offense and defense.”

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