Trey Lance plays football today. Fred Warner, Nick Bosa, Deebo Samuel, Trent Williams, and the rest of the 49ers stars do, too. So today, we asked our staff to let us know what they’re most looking forward to seeing in tonight’s preseason matchup against the Packers.
Kyle Posey (@KP_Show)
It sounds corny, but I’d love to see both teams come away from tonight’s game without any injuries. Outside of that, I’m looking forward to seeing what Kyle Shanahan shows on offense. We won’t see any designed runs for Lance, but he’ll still run his base plays.
So, expect plenty of throws toward the sideline and down the field. But, also, who gets the first crack as the third down back? Does Ray-Ray McCloud get more opportunities in the couple of series the starters get than Jauan Jennings? That’s what I’m looking for.
Marc Delucchi (@maddelucchi):
I won’t complicate this one. It’s Trey Lance. Despite the 49ers’ storied history, they have not drafted an elite quarterback in the first round since Y.A. Tittle back in 1951. Lance has a chance to change that. Yet, even if he falls short of that lofty title, Kyle Shanahan has proven he can win with a flawed starting quarterback. It could get ugly if Lance is unable to reach that level of production, but we can enjoy the low stakes of the preseason for now.
Normally, great hopes in an unproven young quarterback come with a flawed supporting cast. That’s not the case in San Francisco, though. The Niners are trying to have their cake and eat it too. Bay Area faithful watched the Golden State Warriors do exactly that this past season when they held onto their young talent alongside a championship run. Maybe the Niners can do the same thing.
Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav):
The most obvious answer is Trey Lance. But I’ll pick the other Trey that’s on the roster in Trey Sermon. The former Ohio State running back had an underwhelming rookie season but has been much improved coming into training camp this season. Along with Sermon, the 49ers have also added Tyrion Davis-Price and Jordan Mason in this year’s draft class.
The running back room has much-needed competition behind Elijah Mitchell and Jeff Wilson Jr., and I can’t wait to watch how it shakes out. One of these talented players will be on the outside looking in when it’s all said and done — but who will it be?
One of the most competitive positional battles will have its first inflection point on Friday when the 49ers host the Packers.
Tyler Austin (@TyLAustin):
Let’s take it as read that Trey Lance and his continued development will be what every fan of the Niners is most looking forward to tonight, if only to stop the conjecture and criticism based on nothing but three to five-second clips from training camp. However, there’s much more that’s going to need to go right for this team to make a Super Bowl run. One of those things will be the team’s defense.
Just how good will this unit be? Can DeMeco Ryans build on 2021’s success? Will they approach or possibly surpass 2019 levels of dominance? After a couple of weeks of picking on an offense during install when there’s no game plan to create or exploit weaknesses, the first real test will be the Green Bay Packers. No matter how much intensity Fred Warner might be trying to bring, there’s just no replicating game action.
Think about it. Won’t seeing Charvarius Ward in the red and gold for the first time be thrilling? How will Drake Jackson look against pros? Who gets most of the snaps replacing Jaquiski Tartt? We’ll get answers to all these and more soon enough.
Yinon Raviv (@yr195):
The offensive line. Specifically Spencer Burford, Aaron Banks, and Jason Poe, but honestly, all of them.
Trey Lance is the easy answer here, but he has a month more of practices to ramp up for Week 1. Whatever he does today won’t really matter because he’s QB1 this season, no matter what, and he’ll have ~15 more practices (including some joint practices) to keep improving.
On the other hand, the offensive line is way less settled and in dire need of actual competition. We have no idea what we have on our hands. We know big Spence has been crushing it, Jason Poe has been turning heads, and Aaron Banks seems up-and-down. But that’s all been training camp practice reports. We can gain some specific knowledge on how these players perform in live game reps, and that insight will go a long way to informing how the rest of this positional battle unfolds.
Jordan Elliott (JLeeElliott):
Robbie Gould! Just kidding. It’s Jordan Mason and Tyrion Davis-Price. The pair of rookie running backs both impressed me with their performances during training camp, and both play with a physical style that I think will translate much better when they can showcase their ability when the defense can tackle them to the ground.
Davis-Price is essentially a lock to make the roster given the draft capital invested into him, but he has a strong opportunity during the preseason to earn a higher volume of carries in the pecking order of a crowded backfield.
Mason, on the other hand, is an undrafted free agent and, as such, doesn’t have the same assurances of making the final 53. Nevertheless, I thought Mason looked like one of, if not the best, running back on the field during a handful of different practices during camp. This is his opportunity to demonstrate he is more valuable than a practice squad stash.
I think Elijah Mitchell, Jeff Wilson Jr., Trey Sermon, and Davis-Price are in the drivers' seats for the spots Shanahan typically rosters at the position, but a strong preseason showing from Mason might force Shanahan to consider keeping five running backs (six if you count Kyle Juszczyk).
Mason is a player who may not be elite in one area but looked above average across the board regarding vision, speed, and power. Mason demonstrated an ability to push vertically and make decisive cuts, which is imperative for running backs in this scheme. If his ability to run with conviction translates during preseason action, Shanahan is going to be faced with a very tough decision when final roster cuts are made.