What are your expectations for Trey Lance today? From a matchup perspective, you couldn’t ask for a better opponent for Lance’s first career start.
The Cardinals D is 30th in success rate. 25th vs. pass/29th vs. run. Turnover luck has saved them.— KP (@KP_Show) October 8, 2021
AZ has allowed the second-most explosive running plays. They’re fast but reckless.
They’re without their best CB.
Be tough to find a better matchup for Trey Lance.
Today’s game will be close. Honestly, I expect the 49ers to win. Today is a perfect opportunity for San Francisco’s turnover luck to start trending in the right direction.
How much does his absence change San Francisco’s offense?
Barrows: Kittle, of course, is a tremendous loss because he’s such a sound and tenacious blocker on the edges where the 49ers run game does its most damage.
Backup Charlie Woerner has become a better blocker in his second season, but there are no tight ends on the roster who are close to Kittle in the run game. He’s also been a consistent deep threat this season, though Garoppolo has yet to link up on a bomb. One deep attempt was intercepted by the Packers. Another, a trick-play attempt against the Seahawks, was off-kilter and the pass was nearly intercepted.
The 49ers on Saturday promoted veteran wide receiver/return man Travis Benjamin to the 53-man roster, and he is expected to see action Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
The 49ers also announced standard elevations from the practice squad for quarterback Nate Sudfeld and tight end Tanner Hudson to be available to suit up against in the key NFC West game.
Benjamin could also be used in the return game after Trenton Cannon struggled a week ago in the 49ers’ 28-21 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. In his career, Benjamin has averaged 10.9 yards on 109 punt returns with four touchdowns. He has a 25.5 yard average on 19 career kickoff returns.
Why it won’t go wrong
The counter to that thesis is that Lance, before Sunday, was only used in spot situations mostly in the red zone. Shanahan employed him as a runner or used his threat as a runner to throw off the defense. He has been extremely effective in those opportunities.
Shanahan said after the loss to Seattle that the game plan was not developed for Lance and cited that as part of the reason the rookie consistently exited the pocket.
That should suggest that the playbook is fairly expansive, with multiple designs that are Lance-specific. And while there have been those assessments that Lance is a long-term project, every one of those statements came with a qualifier that acknowledged his evident talent, both mentally and physically.
San Francisco has arrived at a crucial juncture. Lance should be in a position to take over if Shanahan handles this properly. He was unquestionably the more competitive quarterback against Seattle, even given his many flaws, and that is part of what the coaching staff is wrestling with.
“I’m excited to see him play,” Shanahan said. “I know he’s got the ability to do a lot of things. But it’s going to be his first time out there for the whole game, and I’m just pumped to see him play, but I don’t go into it expecting anything. You try to prepare a guy as good as you can. From our standpoint, I know he’s done his part in preparing. And then when Sunday comes, that’s usually the spot where you get to have fun and just cut it loose, and you live with the results.”
“Joey [Slye] is a really good kicker, like Joey a lot,” Hightower told reporters Wednesday. “Joey was obviously a guy that came in at Carolina in 2019. He was a rookie when Mitch was a rookie. He’s kicked in this stadium before. He’s kicked about 80 percent. He won that job as a rookie. It’s hard to do that, you know, especially when you’re not drafted, and he has a very strong leg. He had a really good workout yesterday. He had a really good workout. And he’s been really good in the meetings. So, we’re looking for him to come in and fill in there for us and help us win this game against Arizona.”