Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan weighs in on Trey Lance’s ability to be a good pocket QB for the 49ers

Sep 11, 2021 at 10:21 AM--

Everyone is excited about what Trey Lance might mean for the future of the San Francisco 49ers offense. The athletic rookie quarterback had 1,100 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns to go with his 2,786 passing yards and 28 passing touchdowns as a sophomore at North Dakota State. While it was against lesser collegiate competition, the total was still impressive.

However, Lance's potential as a pocket passer grabbed head coach Kyle Shanahan's attention. The bonus of his ability to make things happen with his legs convinced San Francisco to trade a haul of future draft capital to move up and select Lance with the No. 3 overall pick.

Lance is just 21 years old and still has to learn to be a better pocket quarterback before taking over the reins. However, the team has the luxury of having a veteran in Jimmy Garoppolo, who has been in the offense three-and-a-half years and can run the team while the rookie continues to study.

Just how good of a pocket passer can Lance be, though? What did the 49ers coach see while studying the quarterback during the pre-draft process and watching him over the offseason?

"I see a guy who's got a chance to be real good at it," Lance told Greg Papa this past week in a feature for NBC Sports Bay Area. "I mean, that stuff takes time for any of those guys, but one of the things I liked about Trey in college a lot was how he played in the pocket. The stuff he does outside of the pocket is what intrigues you the most, but that stuff only lasts so long. If that's all you've got to hang your hat on, it's a matter of time before they will stop you.

"You've got to be able to do both, and he had the ability to do that in college. Now, just like all college-to-the-NFL [transitions], that pocket is a lot different in the NFL, especially the [collegiate] level that he played at."

The North Dakota State Bison play NCAA Division I football and don't face the same level of competition as a team like Alabama, Ohio State, or other FBS schools that also produced quarterbacks drafted in the first round.

Lance got some experience facing one of the deepest defensive lines in football during training camp, albeit mostly with the second-team units. The rookie is working to make sure he can be depended on as a passer before improvising as a runner.

"I think he's been working through that in practice versus our D-line, which is very tough, especially when he had the [second team] O-line most of the time," Shanahan continued. "I think he's seen that in preseason games also, which the pocket might have been even a little better in the preseason games, but then, they can actually tackle you and stuff. That's the experience that he needs, that they all need, and that's why it's always tough for quarterbacks to come in and do that."

Shanahan does love that Lance has the advantage of using his athleticism to potentially escape tough situations. The coach doesn't want his quarterback to become too dependent on that skill set, though. Nor does he want Lance to force a passing situation when another opportunity presents itself.

"He can sometimes get out of it and make some big plays, but the balance is how do you find that balance?" Shanahan said. "Because if you're always getting out of it, it's going to end up bad. So, you've got to mix it up. If you just try to sit in there and stay in there and try to prove you can do it, then you take away some of his biggest assets. So, that comes with time. That will come with some ups and downs.

"Sometimes you've got to fail a couple of times to realize it and learn. We're trying to do that as much in practice as we can, but I'm real excited about Trey going forward with those things."

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