Kyle Shanahan and his offense will have their initial test on Sunday when they open the 2022 season against the Chicago Bears. The Bears' defense allowed the third-fewest passing yards per game last season but were a bottom-ten team in stopping the run.
The 49ers' offense started slowly against the Bears in their Week 8 game last season, scoring just nine points in the first half, but the 49ers went on to win 33-22.
There will be one big difference between the 49ers' 2021 and 2022 offense. Here are the five 49ers to watch on offense:
QB Trey Lance: Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. Sunday marks the beginning of the Trey Lance era, a day 49ers fans have been waiting for since the 22-year-old quarterback was taken with the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. While he made his debut in the 2021 season, Lance will be under center for the first time as not just a starting quarterback but THE starting quarterback for the 49ers. He will face a tough Bears defense that allowed the third-fewest passing yards per game in 2021 while leading the league with a 9.3 sack percentage on 477 pass attempts against.
RT Mike McGlinchey
The 49ers' offensive line will get a boost when McGlinchey returns on Sunday after tearing his quad in 2021. While McGlinchey caught a break when the Bears traded Khalil Mack back in March to the Chargers, he will still have a tough test against Trevis Gipson, who will likely line up on the other side.
Gipson played just 71 snaps in 2020 during his rookie season but saw 489 snaps in 2021, collecting seven sacks. With McGlinchey being a better run blocker than pass blocker, the fifth-year tackle will have a tough test in his return against Gipson.
Robert Quinn, Chicago’s best pass rusher, primarily rushes from the right side of the defense.
RG Spencer Burford
Burford has turned into one of the more pleasant surprises over the summer. The 49ers selected the guard with the 134th pick, and he soared up the depth chart to become the starter on Sunday. Burford is one of three new starters on a redone version of the offensive line and has quickly become what feels to be one of the better players on the line. Burford will become the fourth different right guard to start a Week 1 since Kyle Shanahan took over the 49ers in 2017.
RB Jordan Mason
Mason might be the most curious player to watch on Sunday for the 49ers. He went undrafted and was signed by the 49ers, then turned in a solid camp, performed well in the preseason (19 carries, 94 yards), made the initial 53-man roster, and was kept over Trey Sermon when the 49ers needed to make a roster spot for Blake Hance.
It is obvious Shanahan likes the 23-man roster, but how much will Mason be used in the offense behind the likes of Elijah Mitchell and Jeff Wilson? We’ll find out Sunday.
WR Deebo Samuel
Another obvious choice with Samuel being named an All-Pro in 2021, but it will be an interesting watch to see how Shanahan uses Samuel after rumors were afloat that the receiver was unhap"y with hi" role. Samuel saw 3.7 carries per game in 2021, averaging 6.2 yards per attempt, so there is motivation to use him as a “wide back” again, but with the revamp depth at the running back position, the thought is Samuel could see fewer carries. So while Samuel is a weekly player to watch, it will be interesting to see the first kind of usage he sees in 2022.