Zierlein explains why the 49ers should give Trey Lance playing time in 2021

May 8, 2021 at 9:38 AM--

As soon as the team traded up to the No. 3 overall spot, NFL Media analyst Lance Zierlein felt Trey Lance to the San Francisco 49ers made a lot of sense. To him and many others, it certainly made more sense than drafting Mac Jones.

"When you look at this, to me, OK, big, mobile, has experience under center, is highly intelligent, even as a young player," Zierlein explained on Friday during a KNBR interview. "Trey Lance is a guy that made perfect sense."

There is some uncertainty surrounding when fans will get a good look at Lance running the 49ers offense. CEO Jed York told NBC Sports Bay Area this week that ownership is comfortable paying Jimmy Garoppolo's hefty salary this — and even next season — if sitting and learning is the best way to develop Lance, and if it is best for the team.

Zierlein doesn't necessarily feel that the rookie quarterback should be kept out of the on-field action, though. Missing an entire season might be concerning, considering Lance hasn't played in a game since October 3, 2020.

"You could have two straight years of not playing football," Zierlein said. "What does that mean to this player's development? What I think it means is you go into this season attempting to win as many games as you can and compete for a Super Bowl, understanding that Trey Lance is going to be your future.

"But what I also think it means is you're going to have to create, basically, a scenario in practice, and otherwise, that really focuses on a 1A approach and a 1B approach. And that's something I don't think you see very often in most scenarios. You're going to have to give Trey Lance more reps in practice and more 1A — reps with the ones, potentially — because you do really do have to try to create some growth, even if he doesn't play a lot."

But it's not just practice. It may benefit both Lance and the 49ers to have the rookie quarterback take snaps in games, even in a limited fashion, in certain packages or situations.

"I think it does nothing but give him snaps, give him reps, and make him comfortable," Zierlein commented. "You can protect the quarterback in that offense. There's no question. But his ability to give you a wrinkle like run-zone-read out of the pistol or out of the standard shotgun-zone-read, the ability to line up and make it look exactly the same as the offense that Jimmy Garoppolo runs, to stick him down there inside the 10-yard line, to put pressure on defenses ... I think it's a terrific idea because it's lower risk than people might think. It really is.

"He's a big, bruising runner, and it just makes defenses focus more attention on that position. So, when you game plan, when you do your offensive and defensive installs on Tuesday, that takes up a lot of time.

"So, what they now would have to do, as soon as San Francisco shows it one time, as soon as they show it one time, defenses will now have to include practice time every single week for the Lance package. And it's just extra time they have to take up and involve in their game planning, and it's just a huge pain in the butt for teams. But that's one of the things that would be an advantage (for the 49ers)."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Zierlein below. It includes a lot of interesting tidbits about the 49ers' draft picks.

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