Overheard in the 49ers media room after Wednesday’s practice: “Should I write about Trey Lance being better than Jimmy Garoppolo for the third day in a row?”
That’s where we are a week into Niners training camp. I like to think of myself as a tough critic who expects excellence out of these players. At this point, it feels like Lance is ready to graduate from beating up on the second-team defense.
Lance finished Wednesday’s practice with four straight touchdowns.
- He hit Jordan Matthews on the same follow concept a few days ago, where Lance stared down the receiver.
- On the next play, the defense ran with Lance as he carried out his fake, allowing Wayne Gallman to stroll into the end zone untouched for a score.
- On the following play, Lance pulled the ball on a zone-read with an arc block as the lead blocker to score from ten yards out.
- Then, on perhaps his best throw of the day, Lance hits Austin Watkins on a corner route which was perfectly placed over the outstretched hands of the cornerback for six. This was after the defense double-covered Brandon Aiyuk and forced Lance to go across the field to his third read.
That was in one team session.
During the previous period that wasn’t in the red zone, Lance also had two deep passes and one additional throw down the sideline to George Kittle that drew a defensive pass interference.
Speaking of the star tight end, he was quick to calm the Lance hype train after practice, saying that things are a lot different and faster in a game: “Let’s see when the live bullets are flying.”
That’s fair to point out, as Lance has been working against the same players who are running the same defense for a week now.
It feels like some in the media are ready to pull the plug on Garoppolo as the starter. He finished Wednesday’s practice 6-12. He seems to be trending in the wrong direction.
Jimmy’s second throw was broken up as he attempted a curl route to the far hash. Garoppolo’s deep target to Kittle sailed out of bounds, and he also overshot Brandon Aiyuk, who had a step on the cornerback, on a deep corner route.
Garoppolo found Kittle open on a naked bootleg during the red zone period, but he also threw well short of the sticks on 3rd & goal, which forced the offense off the field.
Kittle talked about the importance of “stacking good practices back-to-back.” Lance has done that, while Jimmy has not. It’s August 4, and to say the competition is over or that the rookie should start feels premature.
To say Lance should be relegated to working with the second team any longer feels like punishment. For Lance to take the next step in his development, let’s see how he does against a dominant pass-rush, Fred Warner, Jason Verrett, and Jimmie Ward.
Players who didn’t participate:
- LB Azeez Al-Shaair (knee)
- DE Samson Ebukam (lower body soreness)
- TE MyCole Pruitt (calf)
- DE Nick Bosa (maintenance day)
- DT Javon Kinlaw did not participate in team drills
Kinlaw pulled himself early in practice and spent most of the day on one knee with his head down. I asked DeMeco Ryans what happened after practice, but to no avail: He’s fine. He’ll be fine.
Jalen Hurd participated in team drills once again, but they were few and far between. Dee Ford did not. This felt planned, with Thursday being a day off and Wednesday being a shorter practice.
An early look at the depth chart
Colton McKivitz received first-team reps for the first time at right guard. I asked offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel what went into that decision. He said it’s an open competition and expects each player to get even reps to evaluate them. The four players in the running are Daniel Brunskill, Colton McKivitz, Aaron Banks, and Tom Compton.
Banks has yet to take any reps with the 1’s. Brunskill worked as the second-team center.
Dre Greenlaw has slid over to SAM linebacker with Azeez Al-Shaair out, with Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles working at WILL.
Ken Webster received reps opposite of Jason Verrett at cornerback. The second team secondary has both rookies Demmodore Lenior and Ambry Thomas on the outside, with Talanoa Hufanga and Tony Jefferson working at safety. This was the group that gave up multiple big plays to Lance.
Unheralded player of the day - Jordan Matthews
That’s tight end, Jordan Matthews, to you. No. 88 added weight but didn’t lose any speed. Matthews caught a touchdown during the red zone period, but he sprung a block that led to a Gallman touchdown, and he celebrated as if he just caught the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl.
Matthews has a chance to make this roster over the likes of Charlie Woerner and everyone not named Kittle/Ross Dwelley. He had another play where he was open deep, wasn’t targeted and was not too happy. Matthews's passion stands out, and he’s learning the ropes of the tight end position.
Quotes of the day - A trifecta for Trey
Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans on what he’s been impressed with about Lance: “The guy’s ability to throw the ball. He can hit every route. It’s been fun to watch him.”
Offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel on Lance: He’s getting to the point where he’s correcting other players, and as a coach, that’s all you want to see.
D.J. Jones, whose shirt was incredible:
D.J. Jones when asked if his eyes are glued to Trey Lance when he’s on the sideline: “I think everyone’s is. He’s special.” pic.twitter.com/RfhKmJziGK— Niners Nation (@NinersNation) August 4, 2021