Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

49ers Notebook: Trey Lance’s impressive feat; Shanahan on QB practice reps, and why he ignores ‘The Chart’; Bosa predicts eventual DeMeco Ryans departure

Jan 6, 2022 at 7:55 PM--

What was so impressive about Trey Lance's performance against the Texans that many have overlooked? And how are he and Jimmy Garoppolo dividing reps at practice this week?

And why doesn't 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan pay much attention to "the chart" on fourth downs?

We cover all that and much more in this jam-packed rundown of what the 49ers players and coaches said on Thursday. A few topics have already been covered in other articles (see: Shanahan, Ryans assess DBs' COVID situation | Deebo Samuel doesn't seem interested in conversing with Aaron Donald | 49ers players say Garoppolo looks 'real good' | 49ers-Rams injury report), but there's a lot more than that to get into today. Let's take a look.

* What impressed Mike McDaniel about Trey Lance's second start: Rookie quarterback Trey Lance led the 49ers to a much-needed 23-7 win over the Houston Texans last Sunday while filling in for injured quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The start was Lance's second of his NFL career, and it brought with it many positives—one of which might have gotten overlooked by some, but not by offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel.

As McDaniel pointed out on Thursday, Lance's start against the Texans wasn't just the second of his NFL career, and it wasn't just his first start after mostly being on the bench since filling in for Garoppolo against the Cardinals in Week 5. It was only his third overall start since 2019 due to being limited to just one game in 2020 at North Dakota State because of COVID-19 restrictions.

That, as well as the fact that Lance's performance was better than a number of performances from more experienced rookie quarterbacks this season, makes his showing against the Texans an eye-opener.

"I think so often a lot of us are guilty of kind of disassociating from professional athletes and really a thing that really impressed me was, wow, this guy hadn't been on the field in a while," McDaniel said. "And I was just reminded today that he has started three games in two years. So the most impressive thing was that all of that build up to get his opportunity, how he handled the pressure and how he showed all the fans, and really the world, what we've been seeing on a day-in, day-out basis. And that's a progression and improvement, a guy that is continuing to get better day-in, day-out.

"And his expectations are high just like ours are for him. And it was really cool to see him play his best football as the game progressed. So often you learn about people and how they handle trials and tribulations, and when you don't score touchdowns early, you don't really know how someone's going to respond. And that was an awesome thing to view. It didn't surprise us in the least. But it was really cool that he was able to take the opportunity and play some good football."

Meanwhile, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke briefly on Lance's performance during his guest appearance on KNBR's Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks Podcast on Thursday.

"I think he's going in the right direction," Shanahan said. "I thought he came out a little rusty, took him a little bit to get going. I don't think it was just him though, either. He wasn't the only one holding our offense back."

Shanahan went on to say that Lance got into a rhythm after leading the 49ers to a field goal to cut Houston's lead to 7-3 at the end of the first half.

"The monkey was off his back," Shanahan said. "We had scored some points and he loosened up a little bit. I thought he got into a pretty good rhythm and played a pretty good game."

* Lance and Jimmy's workload: Will Lance get another start against the Los Angeles Rams this week? Or will Garoppolo be healthy enough to play? McDaniel didn't give any hints on Thursday, nor did Shanahan. But Shanahan did go into detail on how the two have been splitting up practice reps over the past couple of days.

"I think (Garoppolo) would have gone more if it was a game, so you're not pushing him exactly at game tempo," Shanahan said. "You try to make smart decisions on what he can throw and everything. 'Hey, here's the play, but don't worry, you don't have to do that. You don't have to show us you can do it until Sunday. You let me know if you can do it by then.' So it's more of that stuff, and the ones we didn't want him to risk and things like that, Trey would take. This time of year most of the stuff is walkthrough anyways."

* Don't trust "The Chart": There are those who like to play the percentages when it comes to fourth down situations, but Kyle Shanahan isn't one of them.

Shanahan was asked during his radio appearance if he goes off "The Chart" on fourth downs (meaning does he trust what the percentages tell him about the situation), or if The Chart is more of a situational thing.

Actually, it turns out The Chart isn't something Shanahan thinks about much at all, at least during games.

"I'll say I've never heard what The Chart says at one time during the season," Shanahan said. "I do not believe in absolutes in football because there's too many variables. So whatever the percentages are, it's all about one time. I always compare to blackjack. If I'm playing blackjack, I will always double down on eleven, but it's because I'm going to play for an hour and eventually the odds will come out that way, supposedly. If you go for it every time on 4th-and-1, eventually you should get it more than you have. But I don't look at it that way. Who's the three-technique? Who's blocking him? What's the weather? Who's the quarterback on the other side? Can we kick a field goal? All that type of stuff. Do I feel the momentum? Whatever my gut is. There's so many things that go into it."

There does come a time when Shanahan likes to crunch the numbers, but that comes during the offseason. Shanahan says he'll study situations in the offseason so he's ready to act on them if they come up during the regular season.

"I love hearing the analytics and stuff like that," Shanahan said. "I just think that's more often than not an offseason thing where you look at all that stuff, you hear the stats of it, and you study tape and study situations to how they come out. That's all in your head and you learn a lot from it."

* Nick Bosa expects DeMeco Ryans to be a head coach soon: 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa feels the same way about defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans as many others do—that he's a rising star who will become a head coach sooner rather than later, just like former 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

Saleh moved on over the offseason to a head coaching job with the New York Jets, and Bosa seems to think it's only a matter of time before someone gives Ryans the same opportunity. It might not happen right away, but he doesn't think Ryans' stay in the Bay Area will last too long.

"I was actually looking at him or listening to him talk to us before the Texans game and I was just thinking, 'That's going to be the next head coach somewhere,'" Bosa told reporters Thursday. "Just the way he addresses the defense and the way he talks and his motivational skills and all that stuff, I saw it with Saleh and I definitely wouldn't be surprised if he's maybe one more year with us, but I'm sure somebody's going to snag him pretty soon."

* The silver lining to Bosa's double teams: Bosa has been double-teamed as much as any defensive lineman in the league this season, but at least that's trickled down to his teammates.

Bosa has been able to get his numbers despite double-teams (47 tackles, 15 sacks), and in recent weeks he's been seeing fellow linemen Arden Key, Samson Ebukam, Jordan Willis, and Arik Armstead get their stats as well. Those four players combined for the three sacks the 49ers totaled against the Texans, while Key is having a breakout second half of the season that has him at six total sacks so far. Bosa would certainly prefer to get more one-on-ones, but he's happy to see his teammates get their opportunities.

"It's a little frustrating sometimes when you don't feel as involved in a game, but when you see Arden get a career high in sacks, and Jordan Willis, and Arik is starting to come together, and Samson—I think a career high for him as well (4.5)—it's definitely rewarding in that way too," Bosa said.

Bosa added, "I've seen a lot of good stuff on tape. Last week watching Arden, he had as good a game as any D-Lineman could have in a game. He was winning one-on-ones left and right and not really getting blocked much. And then Arik had a huge day as well. So yeah, the more attention that goes whatever way, we have really a lot of confidence in the other guys who are going to get those one-on-ones that they're going to win them. It's definitely an important week for that to keep going."

* Bosa on Warner: Linebacker Fred Warner was a popular topic of conversation Thursday after he spoke the day before about how he put a great deal of pressure on himself earlier in the season due to his significant contract extension. Warner has moved past that phase, which Bosa (who will get a bigger extension than Warner in the near future) talked a bit about on Thursday.

"We had a talk the other day," Bosa said. "He obviously has really high goals for himself, like similar to me. Obviously when you get a big payday, you want to show the organization they made a good decision. But he's earned that before he even played a snap this season. But yeah, he's just super hard on himself. Sometimes in football, plays aren't going to come your way all the time. You just have to keep on going. Eventually, when you're a really good player, things will start to go your way, and they have the past few weeks for sure."

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