Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

What we learned from the 49ers’ preseason win against the Chargers

Rohan Chakravarthi
Aug 23, 2021 at 2:30 PM--

Last week, following the 49ers' loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, I wrote up the four most important takeaways from the game.

Now, two games into the preseason, there is much to talk about, albeit taking everything with a grain of salt, given that it is the preseason. I cannot stress that enough.

Yesterday, the 49ers defeated the Chargers 15-10 for their first preseason win in a rather defensive matchup between the two teams.

So, let's get into what exactly we learned from the game: the good, the average, and the bad.

The Good

1. Trey Lance

Just like last week, we have to start with the main attraction: the one and only Trey Lance.

The rookie was supposed to sit out the first drive to Jimmy Garoppolo, play two drives, and then hand the reigns to Garoppolo again for his second drive. But a 16-play drive ending in an interception caused Garoppolo, who we will brush on later, to reach his snap count, so Lance played out a majority of the next two quarters.

Lance had a rough start, which included a couple of poor throws and a presumed drop by Deebo Samuel. To start, it felt as if Lance was trying to muscle in every throw, which forced some inaccuracy and exaggerated throw power.

So, why is Lance in the good category?

Well, after a rough outing last week, Lance showed poise in his second NFL game. He threw an interception on his second drive on a catchable, but lasered ball intended for Mohammed Sanu that deflected off his hands and into the arms of Trevaughn Campbell.

Following another punt, Lance led an impressive six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that lasted only 46 seconds, capping it off with a bullet to Sanu, who slipped between two defenders into the endzone.

Then, on his second drive of the half, Lance drove the team down the field for his second touchdown, firing yet another bullet, this time to WR Travis Benjamin on a crossing route with beautiful accuracy, leading him to the endzone on a 16-yard pass.

After that, Lance was relieved by Nate Sudfeld, who finished off the game.

Lance's struggles with throw power remained as the rookie was often throwing bullets, rather than getting a feel for the pass, which was especially seen on short to medium routes. This caused some of his inaccuracy issues as the effort towards throwing the ball hard drifted his accuracy sometimes behind his intended target. The accuracy was a concern coming into the NFL and will improve as Lance gets a better feel on his throws.

But, the flaws came with the positives, which were on full display this game. The most impressive aspect of Lance's game was his football IQ.

Lance went through his progressions very quickly in this game, pinpointing the open receiver and making the throw. This was especially seen on the 16-yard touchdown to Travis Benjamin, on which Lance first looked towards the outer route on the top, transitioned to the second receiver on the top, before transitioning to Benjamin across the middle within a matter of seconds.

Then, on his first official NFL run, Lance progressed quickly, felt the pressure, and made the decision to take off after eyeing the field.

Don't read too much into the play on which Lance got sacked. It's been quite evident that the quarterback has been instructed to showcase his passing skills, which was why he hung around looking for a receiver, rather than rushing down the field instantly.

2. Wayne Gallman

For the running back group, today was really the battle for that third running back spot between Gallman and JaMycal Hasty.

Aaaand, despite The Faithful really, and I mean really, being interested in Hasty with his explosiveness, Gallman was the superior back today. Looking at stats alone, Gallman had 15 carries for 72 yards, but his presence was felt much more than just on a scoresheet.

Time and time again, Gallman made the correct read inside the tackles and burst through the first wave of the defense for a respectable amount of yards. No, he didn't have any eye-popping plays, but his consistency during the game was certainly there.

In addition, Gallman had a great block in pass protection, picking up the blitz from a charging linebacker on Lance's 41-yard completion to Trent Sherfield that set up the touchdown pass.

At the moment, it seems that both he and Hasty will make the roster because Elijah Mitchell and Jeff Wilson remain injured, but it will certainly be a battle to look for.

3. Defensive Line

The defensive line was by far the most impressive element of the game for the 49ers on Sunday.

The pressure was certainly felt throughout the game, as the 49ers got to the quarterback five times overall, and to be honest, it felt like a lot more. One of those sacks even resulted in a safety.

The constant attack, especially when Chase Daniel was in the game, forced many short passes as Daniel only had 2.9 yards-per-attempt.

In addition, the run-stopping element was certainly there, as the Chargers got a combined 54 yards on 22 carries for a poor 2.4 yards-per-carry.

The front seven was responsible for a whopping 9 of the team's 11 tackles for loss, exemplifying that pressure.

In fact, four of the top five highest graded 49ers defenders by PFF came along the defensive line.

DE Arden Key even had a pass-breakup at the line of scrimmage to cap off the amazing game by the defensive line.

This certainly is a good sign for the season as the backups were able to torch other backups in creating pressure, fulfilling defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans's desire to be more attacking at the line of scrimmage.

4. Deommodore Lenoir

Lenoir was one of the many rookies who got the start Sunday and the fifth round pick certainly delivered in his opportunity against the Chargers.

The Oregon product had a pass breakup on the opening drive and has been dominant in the preseason. In six targets, Lenoir has allowed a passer rating of 0.0, per PFF's Jeff Deeney. That's not a joke. He's been that good.

While it obviously is the preseason and everything should be taken with a grain of salt as I stated above, Lenoir seems to be another solid pickup for the 49ers, who entered the offseason with a depleted secondary.

Despite his performance, I still don't think Lenoir should start over K'Waun Williams in the slot, but it speaks well for the future, should Williams get injured or leave in free agency next season.

The Average

1. Kyle Shanahan

Twitter has been hammering Kyle Shanahan hard due to his decision not to draw up run plays for quarterback Trey Lance yet. Well, I don't think a designed run happens until the regular season, when games really start to matter.

However, as usual, Shanahan is thinking ahead, as he wants his secret weapon to be a surprise, as installs in training camp have included Lance design runs.

Shanahan coached a pretty good game Sunday, which I thought many overlooked due to the Lance aspect.

His choice of plays when running the football were especially impressive, as they were dialed at the right time and were executed perfectly. Gallman had multiple five- to six-yard gains on beautiful calls on the inside of the tackles, which gave him room to work and move the chains forward.

In addition, while I do think he could have called simpler plays for Lance to build up that confidence following his first drive or even his second drive, Shanahan inserted Trent Sherfield and called his name as the first read for multiple Lance passing plays, who has been the rookie's go-to target so far at camp, which certainly helped with his confidence.

So, while he could've probably inserted easier plays in those early drives for Lance to boost his confidence, Shanahan let the rookie play and learn, which got him rolling.

The solid coaching plan and work with Lance puts Shanahan in the average category for the second week.

2. The Secondary

The secondary was a mix of good and bad plays on Sunday, which means it belongs in the average category.

Since the defensive line was just amazing, the secondary had some of the weight lifted off its shoulders and kept the game to mainly short passes.

Jared Mayden came up with an interception off Chase Daniel and both he and Lenoir had pass breakups.

In addition, safety Kai Nacua impressed by going untouched on a safety blitz, sacking Chase Daniel to force a 3rd & 31 on a beautiful play call.

However, there were three secondary penalties: a hold by B.W. Webb and defensive pass interferences by both Ambry Thomas and B.W. Webb. The latter two were both crucial plays as Webb's penalty led to a touchdown and Thomas was called for DPI on third and long.

Overall, the secondary had both good and bad moments, but didn't have as much on its shoulders, which is why it places at average.

The Bad

1. Jimmy Garoppolo

Before reading this, know that I am a Garoppolo supporter and I do believe that at this moment, he gives the team the best chance to win football games.

However, the veteran quarterback had a poor performance this week, after an impeccable start last week.

Garoppolo went a measly 3-6 for just 15 passing yards before throwing his interception.

While the interception was certainly catchable and nicely placed, the ball was high and Aiyuk was wide open. Leading the receiver would've likely resulted in an interception as well, since there was the safety lurking from behind. Still, that's a throw and catch that both players have to do better on.

Garoppolo did have a nice 10-yard run across the middle, which he has shown a willingness to do in training camp, but he has to be a better passer and stay more compact in the pocket.

Look for the veteran to bounce back next week against the Raiders and be more like he was against the Chiefs.

2. Richie James

It does hurt putting Richie James here, because week after week, the young receiver flashes some of that potential he might possess.

But once again, the receiver dropped a pass. This time, it was in a crucial situation for Trey Lance as it was on 2nd & 16 right after he got sacked.

Lance was building momentum coming off a touchdown before the half and the drop was a crushing blow which ultimately ended the drive.

Still, James had a nice 32-yard punt return that showcased his ability to move with the ball. Now, he just has to catch it.

Maybe I'm being too harsh on James. But with Nsimba Webster outperforming him on special teams and his continuous drops, he has to be at this spot.

3. Deebo Samuel

Deebo Samuel was a non-factor in tonight's game after being sidelined with his "tight glute" injury earlier this week.

There are two l reasons Samuel is on this list: he was one player who also had a drop and the injuries are hitting him once again.

After a promising rookie season, Samuel struggled to remain on the field last season, playing in only seven games, so a preseason injury is certainly not a good look.

Perhaps the injury was hampering him in the game, but Samuel dropped a pass from Trey Lance on 3rd & 8 during Lance's first drive.

Samuel needs to remain healthy and have another good week of practice to get back and ready for the final preseason game next weekend against the Raiders.

4. JaMycal Hasty

Hasty was given the best opportunity to win the RB3 job and failed to impress.

He started the game for the 49ers and was heavily active, rushing 19 times, but only for a meager 58 yards for 3.1 yards-per-carry.

In the game, it seemed like Hasty was always looking for that big play, rather than settling in and doing his job. You would see the running back try and revert from the inside to the outside multiple times and he made the wrong read on certain plays.

I thought that Gallman just outplayed him in their similar roles, which will set up for an interesting battle, should one of them have to be relegated to the practice squad.

Tune in next week for the takeaways following San Francisco's matchup with Las Vegas.
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.

1 Comment

  • Peyton Martin
    You need to brush up on those subject and object pronouns. Twice, you wrote “both him and a name.” Him is an object pronoun and he is a subject pronoun. You used him as the subject, which is incorrect. You’d think someone that writes or wants to write would know and do this correctly.
    Aug 23, 2021 at 6:49 PM

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