It’s only fitting for Kyle Shanahan to say he plans to give Trey Lance reps with the starters after the rookie had his worst training camp practice. Before Friday, you would have laughed at reading scouting reports saying that Lance was an inaccurate passer.
What seemed like a thing of the past reared its ugly head again on Day 8, as Lance’s timing was consistently off, and he didn’t look comfortable. Lance started the day 5-7 and ended up 6-12.
However, further context is needed here. There was a fumble on an exchange with Wayne Gallman on Lance's first play, which happened again later in practice. So those two are up to at least four fumbled exchanges this week.
Lance found Travis Benjamin on a deep post for the lone explosive play of the day for the 49ers' offense, but the throw was underthrown by about 3-5 yards. Benjamin made a spectacular catch over Dontae Johnson to haul in the throw. Credit Lance for giving his guy an opportunity, but it should have been a touchdown.
Lance’s next throw was a completion, but he threw it about three yards behind George Kittle, who made a spectacular catch as he fully extended and contorted his body to make the catch.
When the team moved to “drives,” where they move the ball and try to score, Lance went 0-4. It seemed as if Lance was playing too fast, which threw off his timing. In addition, he missed high on each of his throws, which was a problem at the beginning of camp.
The big plays are there for Lance as he continues to buy time with his legs and look down the field. Even his misses are fun to watch. For example, there was a play where he rolled to his left, and instead of checking the ball down, it gave Jauan Jennings an opportunity on a deep pass and just went over Jennings's outstretched hands.
There was a new wrinkle in the run game on Friday as we got our first glimpse of the triple option. Watch the play below, and imagine Deebo Samuel in the slot:
2nd play: Bengals defense forces the pitch by walking the LB down to take the QB. All the RB has to do is beat the safety in space. Easy yards. pic.twitter.com/2fZREwbMwE— Rich (@richjmadrid) August 6, 2021
There’s no doubt Shanahan has a few other tricks up his sleeve once he plans on unleashing Lance.
Garoppolo outplayed Lance on Friday. In addition, Garoppolo looked the same as he has every other day of camp. Both of these things can be true.
Garoppolo had his first pass broken up against Emmanuel Moseley. After two short completions, Jimmy missed high to Kittle, which led to a deflection, and he was fortunate K’Waun Williams didn’t intercept the pass on the deflection.
Jimmy G had two other throws that were one-hoppers on crossing routes where it looks as if the ball is dying on him. However, he did find Deebo and Brandon Aiyuk and hit them on stride on separate routes that led to first downs. Garoppolo threw with great anticipation and timing on each play.
After everyone was covered, Jimmy G took off and would have run for 20 yards on one bootleg. That’s the Garoppolo the 49ers can benefit from having under center. One that’s decisive and isn’t afraid to pull it down and run the ball.
Jimmy put his offense in scoring position during drives, while Lance went 3-and-out. Garoppolo finished 7-12. He would have set Kittle up for a big hit on third down as he didn’t see the “trap” cornerback in coverage, but overall his pocket presence and timing were superb on Friday, which is why I felt like he outplayed Lance.
For full context, here’s Shanahan’s entire answer:
Shanahan knows that Lance is going to play for the team and play early. We all do. After the first week or so of practice, that’s even more evident.
He’s careful with his wording for obvious reasons. Will we see packages for Lance? Likely, based on some of the running plays they’ve already put in for the rookie. My question is will Lance receive series at a time, and will it matter what the score is?
For example, if the game is tied, does the team trust Lance enough to put him in? That will be the most telling of all. We still have the preseason games to get through, as well as a few more weeks of training camp.
Shanahan has already changed his tune this week, though.
On Monday, Shanahan said, “I haven’t planned that at all” when asked if Lance would receive reps with the starters. Then, the next day, Lance had one rep with the 1’s on a designed QB run. Finally, on Friday, Shanahan says he wants Lance to get some reps with the first-team offensive line but adds that it’s not a QB competition.
Perhaps Lance is ahead of the curve and even better than the team thought, which is why their tune is changing. It feels inevitable that Lance will become the starter, and that’s not a knock on Garoppolo.
In practice, you can see that he adds different elements that Jimmy G simply doesn’t possess, from stretching the field to getting out of bad plays with his legs and so much more in between.
He'll be your starter once Lance is consistent and we don’t see practices like Friday. It’s only a matter of when.