With the NFL preseason now in full swing, fans will be able to finally see their favorite team and players compete against other teams rather than just clips of them competing at practice. While the preseason is often mocked and criticized as being meaningless and just a glorified scrimmage, it does give you some insight into how players can play and respond when live bullets start to fly. One player that I am particularly keen on watching early in this preseason is the new starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, Trey Lance.
As we all know by now, Lance was named the starting quarterback by head coach Kyle Shanahan at the start of training camp, thus signifying the end of the Jimmy Garoppolo era in San Francisco. This move was widely expected as the team traded significant draft capital in the 2021 draft to move up to take Lance and make him their future franchise quarterback. Now that it’s official, all eyes are on Lance.
With Lance wrapping up his first full training camp as the unquestioned starter, I am very excited to see how he looks in his preseason debut Friday night against the Green Bay Packers. There was some question about if Lance would even play at all this pre-season as more and more coaches opt to hold out key starters from pre-season in hopes to mitigate injury risk. However, Shanahan already stated that he will play Lance in the first and third preseason game ahead of the season opener. Ahead of Friday night’s game, here are three things I’ll be looking for from Lance.
Much has been made about Lance’s inconsistent accuracy during this training camp and I am very eager to see how he looks against another team in a real game situation. I had the pleasure of heading to Santa Clara a few weeks ago to watch Lance in person at an open training camp practice and can safely say that the criticism about his accuracy is more than justified. He is highly inconsistent with his ball placement—especially in the short and intermediate areas of the field—and that is something that he will need to clean up ahead of the regular season.
Now, while Lance missed some throws, he also made some gorgeous throws where he threaded the needle in tight windows outside the numbers from the far hash, showing off his elite arm talent. It’s the consistency from down to down that needs to improve, and I am excited to see how he looks in real competition.
Getting Ball Out On Time
Outside of the ball placement issues, another issue I saw with Lance was his habit of holding the ball too long and not getting the ball out on time. The most important things about Shanahan’s offense are rhythm and timing. A receiver needs to run his route a certain way to ensure he ends up at a certain spot and the quarterback needs to ensure he gets the ball out on time right when the receiver is getting to his spot.
One of the reasons why Garoppolo experienced a level of success was because he was so good with his timing on throws and often would get the ball out very quickly and put it right where the receiver was about to be. At practice, there were multiple instances where Lance would hold on to the football, failing to see the receiver come open until late in the down, and then try to force a throw when it was already too late.
Lance needs to speed up his process and internal clock while also trusting that his receivers will get to their spots. This is something that will only improve with live reps, so I’ll definitely be interested to see how he looks getting the ball out Friday night.
Chemistry With Pass-Catchers
While Lance has been the most popular name at 49ers camp, another player has also found his way into the headlines for his play. Third-year receiver Brandon Aiyuk has been sensational all throughout camp and has flashed big-time upside. One reason this is the case is because of his chemistry with Lance, as the two spent a ton of time together working out in the offseason.
While the Lance to Aiyuk connection appears strong, I am fascinated to see how Lance and his other pass-catchers gel. There have been reports that he and Deebo Samuel have been off during camp, which is very understandable given Samuel was holding out all offseason and just recently returned to practice. While it is unclear and very unlikely that Samuel suits up Friday night, I am curious to see the chemistry Lance shows with other receivers not named Aiyuk. How will he look throwing to the team’s No. 3 receiver Jauan Jennings?
It is important for Lance to begin to build chemistry with his weapons, and that can start Friday night against the Packers.