Trey Lance was one of the biggest wildcards in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, a prospect without the largest sample size but with some of the most impressive raw tools and a ceiling that was practically unmatched. We’ve gotten a small glance into what Lance can do through three games of a preseason, which concluded with Sunday’s 34-10 San Francisco 49ers win over the Las Vegas Raiders.
Outside of the small amount of snaps we saw Nate Sudfeld take, the 49ers had Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo in and out at quarterback—something we should prepare ourselves to see some of in the regular season moving forward.
Sunday’s rotation wasn’t exactly planned, based on head coach Kyle Shanahan’s postgame comments, but the quarterbacks handled it well and it seems this could be something that could work well in real-game action.
"I thought they did a good job," Shanahan said. "By no means was it perfect but I thought the function of it and going in and out and not knowing who it was going to be, it wasn't a planned rotation. We tried to make it situational."
Lance was 6-of-13 passing for 46 yards, also carrying the ball six times for eight yards and a rushing touchdown. He played 10 of 24 snaps with the starters, perhaps a clear sign of what’s to come. Garoppolo was 4-of-7 for 64 yards, also carrying the ball twice for three yards and a score.
In the two performances preceding this one, Lance was 8-of-14 passing for 102 yards with two touchdowns and one interception against the Los Angeles Chargers, while he was 5-of-14 for 128 yards with one touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs in the previous game.
Shanahan has yet to name a starter between the veteran and the rookie, though it seems most plausible that the veteran Garoppolo will see the most snaps with Shanahan mixing the rookie in.
The head coach doesn’t seem ready to give up the information on exactly how things will be done, though. He has said that he has a “pretty good idea” of what the quarterback situation will look like in the first game of the season.
“I don’t like playing this game but everyone keeps asking the question. I won’t just give you the answer just to satisfy the question. I think we got a pretty good idea, all along, I think our team does. I think I’m pretty good with it as long as I keep surviving the press conferences.”
If the two-quarterback system aids San Francisco in dicing up its opponents the same way that it did against Las Vegas in other situations, this might be a strategy for them to hold onto all year.
Of course, the preseason is just that and some things may change down the line as the 49ers face more defenses at full capacity with their starters in—something you don’t face ahead of September.
Regardless, though, Lance is developing as a passer at the next level and the threat that he’s able to create on the ground will continue to pay dividends as far as aiding the run game and his ability to make something out of nothing in situations where it’s difficult to get the ball out.
It will be interesting to watch how this “quarterback with a linebacker mentality” can build upon the momentum he’s created and how much of an impact he’ll make on a week-to-week basis, starting when the 49ers face the Detroit Lions on the road on Sept. 12.