Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

What we learned from the 49ers’ preseason loss to the Chiefs

Rohan Chakravarthi
Aug 14, 2021 at 10:50 PM--

Wow. This first 49ers preseason game was a whirlwind.

Some great moments. Some very poor moments. And surprisingly, a very closely-contested ending. But, let's get into what exactly we learned from the 49ers' 19-16 loss to the Chiefs on Saturday.

1. Trey Lance

C'mon now. You know what the starting point is. Trey Area! The mania that has attracted The Faithful since the moment he got drafted was finally unleashed into his first NFL action.

Aaand, it didn't go too well, although the rookie quarterback certainly had his moments.

Lance went only 5 for 14, accumulating a completion rate of 35.7% in his debut to go with 128 passing yards and one touchdown.

However, that touchdown was an absolute beauty of a pass to a surging Trent Sherfield for an 80-yard gain on the first play of Lance's second drive.

What made the moment even more memorable was that the rookie quarterback was unfazed by the Brandon Aiyuk drop on the previous possession and remained confident to throw a perfect deep ball to a wide open Sherfield, resulting in a touchdown.

Still, the 35.7% completion percentage is a little shaky, especially given that accuracy was a key concern coming out of college.

Regardless, there were multiple factors working against Lance.

First, Lance played in front of a weaker offensive line, which struggled mightily today against Kansas City's starters, during his playing time in the first quarter as Alex Mack and Trent Williams did not suit up Saturday.

As a result, Lance was sacked four times in his limited action.

The first and third sacks both came on third downs, killing their respective drives. Granted, they were in situations with eight and ten yards to gain, but regardless, it happened. The second came on second down, inside the KC 15, and forced the team to settle for a field goal on that possession.

Lance also was limited from the beginning with the gameplan as Shanahan elected against implementing the zone read plays for Saturday's game as a way of keeping some elements hidden from the rest of the NFL.

Without perhaps his most dyamic element, Lance's abilities were capped, which will likely continue for the preseason.

In addition, Lance had an array of near-interceptions and dropped passes today, which certainly could have derailed his confidence in his first game as an NFL player.

With two near-intercepted passes and three drops, Lance's debut was shaky, but the outing was expected from a talented rookie who hadn't played in a game since January of 2020.

Lance will have plenty of time to develop and will be implemented into the game plan when the coaching staff feels that he is the best quarterback on the roster. But, after Jimmy Garoppolo's sharp outing, which we'll get into next, there is a certain QB1 in the 49ers quarterback room.

2. Jimmy Garoppolo

Remember the stories of Garoppolo throwing 5 straight interceptions in practice? Well, throw all that out, because in his first game back after missing most of last season with a high-ankle sprain, Jimmy Garoppolo was just flawless.

His quick release was on full display today as the quarterback went through his reads quickly to find the open man in stride before the pocket collapsed, completing 4/4 passes, although one of the throws was negated by a Charlie Woerner offensive pass interfence.

While he only played one series, Garoppolo looked sharp against the first-stringers on the Kansas City Chiefs and proved why he was the #1 quarterback on the depth chart heading into the preseason.

Can he make those deep throws like Lance's bomb to Trent Sherfield consistently? No. But, Garoppolo knows his own game and manages the field well to his strength with his accuracy and quick release.

After today's performance, let's see if Garoppolo will suit up next week.

3. Offensive Line Woes

The 49ers offensive line was probably their weakest spot on the field today.

While the run blocking was at least average during this game, the pass protection certainly had many flaws.

However, it's important to stress that most of the faults came from young players, like rookies Aaron Banks and sometimes even Jaylon Moore, who need time to develop.

The 49ers averaged six yards per carry, as they accumulated 175 yards over 29 carries over the course of the game.

But, multiple of those carries, such as Nsimba Webster's 34-yard run came, off end-arounds, on which the ball-carrier used the deception created by the play and his speed to accelerate to the second level of the defense, rather than it being solely because of blocking.

While Josh Hokit did a nice job blocking, he was a fullback running out into space to take on those second-level defenders to free up the ballcarriers as they continued. And, as I said, he's a fullback, not an offensive lineman.

Like Hokit, I also thought the tight ends did a solid job blocking, but the offensive line was not great on that aspect.

Still, the 49ers played multiple rookies today and were without arguably their two most important players on the line, tackle Trent Williams and center Alex Mack, so it should only go up from today's play heading forward. But the pass protection must improve in order to keep the team's quarterbacks in the pocket and healthy.

4. The Running Backs

Coming into training camp, it seemed like the top two running backs were set with Jeff Wilson Jr. on the Injured Reserve List: Raheem Mostert and Trey Sermon.

That third spot was up for grabs between former Giant Wayne Gallman, rookie Elijah Mitchell, and second-year running back JaMycal Hasty.

Hasty was the only running back on the team last year out of the three and had multiple eye-opening plays, but only ended up averaging 3.8 yards per carry, leading him to potentially be the odd man out.

Well, Hasty certainly turned some heads Saturday as he ran for 63 yards on ten carries including a touchdown, averaging an impressive 6.3 yards per carry, while Gallman got six carries for 21 yards, which was a meager 3.5 yards per carry.

Hasty's toughness was especially shown on his touchdown carry, on which he muscled himself through the crowded defense in an effort to break the plane, which he successfully did.

What makes this race for that third spot even simpler is that Kyle Shanahan announced that Mitchell would be out several weeks with an abductor strain, leaving him out of the picture likely as training camp approaches.

Look for Hasty and Gallman to continue competing as the preseason continues next weekend with the 49ers facing the L.A. Chargers.

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The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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