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Jets DT Javon Kinlaw: 'This Team Has Everything It Needs'

Free Agent Joins Quinnen Williams, Solomon Thomas and Leki Fotu on Interior of Defensive Front


Javon Kinlaw has a unique backstory and an interesting current story, which fans may not be aware of.

"I have six dogs," Kinlaw said. "I eat… anything. I like to fish, hunt. I love fashion and I'm a cool dude."

And the defensive tackle is one of the newest Jets players, signed in free agency after four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. Last season was his best at chasing down quarterbacks (3.5 sacks) as he played in all 17 regular-season games (and 3 in the playoffs) after a couple of injury-limiting seasons. The Jets are hoping Kinlaw expands his palate to munch on a few more opposing quarterbacks and running backs.

He joins several guys with links to 49ers, a group that includes Jets head coach Robert Saleh (San Francisco's former defensive coordinator) and fellow DT Solomon Thomas (who recently re-signed with the Green & White and who played four seasons for SF). CB Isaiah Oliver, who registered 58 tackles in 17 games last season with the 49ers, signed with the Jets in March and CB D.J. Reed played his first two seasons (2018-19) in Frisco.

Kinlaw recently navigated his first NFL season without missing games due to injury, having sustained knee injuries that curtailed his contribution in 2022 and 2021 (missing 24 of 34 games). In addition to his sack total, he had 6 QB hits and 31 total pressures. Pro Football Focus ranked him No. 35 in pass rushing and No. 88 in run defense among 92 defensive tackles to take at least 400 snaps. PFF ranked him No. 28 in pass-rush productivity, which it says is "a formula that combines sacks, hits and hurries relative to how many times they rush the passer."

The native of Trinidad and Tobago, who came to the United States as a youngster with his mother and two siblings and was homeless for a time, said he's excited about his new opportunity.

"I mean it was like a no-brainer knowing Saleh and knowing [defensive line] coach [Aaron] Whitecotton," Kinlaw told Caroline Hendershot of "I felt comfortable with it, this is a fast, relentless defense. I'm a young player [26] and I can't wait to get into it with these guys.

"I love the coaches' energy. I can't wait, I just can't wait. I'm high energy myself on the field. I'm more laid back in person. When the helmet comes on, it's super high energy all the time. I'm the type who's going to dance the whole practice to every song just because I love being out there. I can't wait to get in."

He added: "You have to be super aggressive to play in this style defense and I do that at a high level. I'm looking to showcase that here."

The Niners selected Kinlaw out of South Carolina in the first round (No. 14 overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft. At 6-5, 319, Kinlaw will have the benefit of lining up next to two-time Pro Bowler Quinnen Williams.

"I love his mindset, I love his practice habits," said Saleh, speaking of Kinlaw a few years ago. "I love his want for more knowledge and because of it, I just think once he puts together a great NFL offseason and continues to build all that strength that he has and really hones in on his weight, he learned what kind of weight he wants to play at, and so I just think the sky's the limit for him. I think he's going to be very, very disruptive in there. I think he's going to be a force on the interior defensive line for a while."

A big part of Kinlaw's "want," as Saleh put it, is his desire to return to the postseason, a burning desire to match the 49ers' march to this past season's Super Bowl, where San Fran lost to Kansas City.

"It's a whole new level in the playoffs, you're all playing at a new intensity," he said. "The main thing I would say about is that most of the guys you go up against in the playoffs, the guys are dwindling. It's about the work you put in during the year so in the playoffs you got more to lean on than the guy in front of you.

"That's what you work so hard for during the year, what you work for to get to those games, you've got to have more in the tank. Both are exhausted from a long year, but who's got more in the tank? That's what I'm bringing -- work super hard all season long. It's not about the offseason only. Even in-season, when you're sore, beat up, you still have to grind, you still gotta work. Because when those games come, I'm telling you, it means the world to know you have an extra step on somebody, that you got more power than them."

Kinlaw brings that level of commitment to the Jets' strong defensive unit that has only gotten stronger early in this period of free agency. The team also added DL Leki Fotu and Oliver, while re-signing two of its own FAs in S Chuck Clark and Thomas.

"I know what it's like in those [playoff] games, money-wise especially," Kinlaw said. "I know what it's like -- the physicality, the energy. I want to go back. This team has everything it needs to make a push to the playoffs."

See photos of QB Tyrod Taylor, DL Javon Kinlaw, OL John Simpson, OL Morgan Moses, DL Leki Fotu & CB Isaiah Oliver touring the Atlantic Health Jets Training Facility for the first time.

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