Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan explains how 49ers rookie Trey Lance is advancing even without playing time

Rohan Chakravarthi
Sep 25, 2021 at 11:15 AM--

Two weeks in, rookie Trey Lance, who was taken third overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, has played in a total of four snaps after not seeing the field in Week 2 against the Eagles.

Lance has mainly served as the scout team quarterback in practice, especially before Week 2 as the team prepared for mobile quarterback Jalen Hurts.

With not much live action in games, most of Lance's improvements come from behind the scenes, which head coach Kyle Shanahan acknowledged during an interview with NBC Sports.

"I think the biggest thing for Trey and any rookie quarterback, especially him coming from a smaller school, not playing in over a year, is just seeing the week-to-week process of what an NFL season is like," Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco. "I remember him telling me how weird the preseason was for him because he's like, 'This is so weird because I know everyone, you want to win every game, but I've never been part of a game where you're not doing everything to win it.' You're trying to see guys. It was just unusual for him.

"And then I think he got to Detroit and [said], 'Oh, this is how it is. Alright. College winning was important, but every single second is important. The way he works, the way he comes in here Monday through Sunday, it's been great, and I think it's going to get better each week."

While it may not seem like much, Shanahan believes that the best work for Lance has come through the scout team.

Said Shanahan, "I think the best thing for Trey, since the season started, has been scout team, though. Then he can go out there and not have to think as much. Just kind of use his fundamentals but look at a card, see his routes and really try to play in that pocket. And when that pocket breaks down, explode out of there and try to make an off-schedule play. And just kind of having the freedom to do that each day."

Although Lance practices with the scout team, he still has a chance to play every week, regardless of injury to starter Jimmy Garoppolo.

Added Shanahan, "He gets three practices at that, and this week is his third different offense doing it in. You always try to relate it to ours but I think that gives a guy a lot of confidence. Rookies I've watched over the years, they usually develop that on [the] practice squad, in those practice reps. He's always got a chance to play each week. Normally, a backup quarterback only has a chance with injury but we know if there is an injury, he'll be in there for a while. But when you have some plays that you can do and some situational stuff, he's got a chance every week to be in there, and that's why he's always up and staying into it."

As Lance continues to improve in practice, situations may arise where the rookie can get a few extra game day snaps, be it on designed runs or using his arm.

With Texans rookie Davis Mills getting his first career start Thursday and Bears rookie Justin Fields starting Sunday, five of the top eight quarterbacks who were taken in the 2021 draft will have made their first start by this weekend: Jacksonville's Trevor Lawrence, New York's Zach Wilson, Chicago's Justin Fields, New England's Mac Jones, and Houston's Davis Mills.

Lance's time will come when he's ready, but for now, be excited for the situational reps he may face on a week-to-week basis.

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