Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

PFF: Trey Lance can shorten the timetable to becoming the 49ers’ starter in preseason

Aug 4, 2021 at 6:26 AM--

There's a lot of excitement surrounding Trey Lance, the No. 3 overall draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers. Fans and the media have been wowed by his training camp performances, bringing the timetable for his readiness to take over the starting role into question.

Many of the questions directed at head coach Kyle Shanahan on Tuesday dealt with his 21-year-old quarterback. Even starter Jimmy Garoppolo was asked multiple times about his eventual successor. A lot of the focus is on Lance, and that won't change any time soon.

"This guy's got some balls," an excited Deebo Samuel told his coach of Lance last week.

"Trey Lance, he's a baller, man," new 49ers wide receiver Trent Sherfield told reporters on Tuesday. "He can play."

Shanahan insists, though, that the timetable for the transition from Garoppolo to Lance has not been shortened because of a few strong practice outings. While Lance might be the most exciting quarterback on the roster right now, Garoppolo remains the most prepared. He has the most experience among the 49ers quarterbacks and, when healthy, has shown he can win a lot of football games in the offense with his 24-9 (including playoffs) record as a starter.

Garoppolo remains likely to be the starter come Week 1.

Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus lists Lance among his list of 10 rookies to watch in the NFL preseason, as if fans needed an excuse to keep their eyes focused on the 49ers' rookie quarterback. However, Monson believes the reason to excessively analyze Lance's preseason performance is because it may be enough to prove to Shanahan that the passer will be ready to take over sooner rather than later.

"The only reason not to have Lance as the starter is because you believe he isn't ready or that the moment is too big for him," wrote Monson. "If he shows that's not the case in preseason, he will make it a lot easier for the team to make a switch at quarterback that is only a matter of time anyway. Maybe Lance can't win the job in preseason, but he can certainly shorten the timetable."

That's not to say that the analyst doesn't have faith in Garoppolo's ability to lead the offense this season. However, as fans and the media have seen in training camp, Lance brings a different level of excitement to the offense. He's also capable of evolving Shanahan's playbook into something that will become a headache for opposing defenders.

"Jimmy Garoppolo is a capable starter," Monson notes, "and the team seemingly is in no rush to usher him to the bench, but Lance brings a skill set that has to have head coach Kyle Shanahan giddy with excitement because of what it allows him to do schematically."

Linebacker Fred Warner understands what it's like going against a player like Lance, pointing to experience facing other NFL quarterbacks as an example. Worrying about a quarterback's arm is one thing. Worrying about his legs, too, makes playing defense increasingly difficult.

"That's always a stress on a defense," Warner said on Tuesday. "... Let's say we play like the Ravens where we have Lamar Jackson or any type of running quarterback that's a threat. You spend literally all week on trying to prepare for something like that because everybody has to be on point in their assignments for the play to be executed on our side.

"For our defense, going against Trey, that's giving us a great look at getting that work in, doing those types of plays. It does cause a threat to a defense when you have to worry about that on any given play."

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