You know it’s preseason when the topic at hand is whether the quarterback’s passes are being thrown too hard. For the San Francisco 49ers, it was an obvious issue with Trey Lance under center Sunday night against the Chargers.
During a conference call on Monday afternoon, head coach Kyle Shanahan was were a bit too hard at times, if it’s fair to say, and if it’s something that could be worked on:
“I think that’s a fair thing to say. I just think a lot of it has to do with having your feet under you and seeing things at the right time and not having to speed it up so much because when you do speed something up and you have the type of ability he has, it’s very hard to take something off of it.
Some of the big arm quarterbacks that I have had, have some very similar issues. That’s why you’ve got to have guys with good hands, but you also want to make it easier on them. And that’s stuff that I think he’ll get better at the more that he plays.”
Shanahan uses nuance here and doesn’t pin the blame on one person. Weird how that works in a team sport.
His quote about Lance playing on time, so the rookie doesn’t have to rely on his rocket arm is a fantastic coaching point. But, unfortunately, there were a handful of plays that Lance left on the field Sunday night.
Some were due to him not getting the ball out on time because his eyes were in a bad place. Others were due to Lance failing to recognize the correct underneath defender to read.
I spoke about each of those throws as well as what it looks like when Lance’s feet, eyes, and shoulders are all married together in the video below:
Another part about Lance’s velocity that I focused on in the video was how hard it is to catch Lance’s fastballs when they’re high and why his margin for error is so small because of it.
When he’s on, Lance shows flashes of being a surgical QB that would pick apart the best defenses in the NFL thanks to that same arm strength and his ability to read a defense.
We have to remember that this kid was a teenager the last time he played football. Two years later and he’s competing to start in the NFL. So it’s unfair to expect Lance not to have any rust.
Once you factor in the difference in speed compared to NFL defenses and...checks notes...Illinois State, then Lance struggling through the first few regular-season games was inevitable. However, thinking he’d breeze through August without facing adversity was unrealistic.
Shanahan acknowledged that he’s purposely handcuffed Lance to a degree, as he has one rush, and that was a scramble in over 60 preseason snaps:
“Not totally. I mean, it depends on what you mean by grading him. I’m just trying to get him better and get him ready for the season. So, we try to work on the things to get better at. We put in a game plan for any quarterback and when you do that in the regular season, you hope they execute that gameplan.
I think when you put in a gameplan for Trey, there’ll be some stuff different than what we’ve done with quarterbacks in the past since we’ve been here. But I don’t see it much differently. You’ve got to do whatever’s part of the game. You want to do it to the best of your abilities. And there’s some other elements that he brings to the game that we obviously haven’t done for obvious reasons. It’s preseason. But I’m looking at everything else too.”
There’s so much focus on whether Lance should start Week 1. Shanahan didn’t trade two future first-round picks for Lance because he thought he’d be the best rookie quarterback in August.
The plan was for Lance to be the best QB a couple of years from now. Until then, we enjoy the process. That includes the bumps along the way known as preseason.
When Shanahan says, he’s looking at everything, that includes how Lance makes the players around him better and if their jobs become easier.
This the preseason, the 49ers have 28 carries for 144 yards with Lance under center.
Yes, it’s preseason, but five yards per carry without your starters is pretty impressive. I highlight part of the reason in the video above, as the 49ers can get an extra blocker in the box or even occupy a defender with Lance carrying a fake out.
The options are endless with Lance, both horizontally and vertically through the air, and on the ground, of course.
If you want Lance to become more consistent, you’re admitting that you want him to play. He’s not going to improve his touch or indecision with mental reps. He’ll have to play. As Shanahan said above, the 49ers are bettering Lance now, so he’s ready for the season.
Everyone wants to know when Shanahan will hand the keys to the offense over to Lance. We know it’s coming based on the team’s investment in the rookie. Once Lance is ready to drive the luxury car, the keys are his. If that happens in September, October or even August remains to be seen.