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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Deebo Samuel, Fred Warner, Trent Williams evaluate ‘natural leader’ Trey Lance in second NFL season

Aug 18, 2022 at 11:12 AM--

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Deebo Samuel was slightly behind when he started practicing with his San Francisco 49ers teammates. That's because the star wide receiver missed the entire offseason program and the start of training camp due to a contract dispute. However, he and the 49ers eventually resolved the situation and Samuel got to work.

Samuel believes he is starting to build more and more chemistry with his second-year quarterback, Trey Lance, now that the two are getting in more work together.

"The first week, I really wasn't out there that much," Samuel said after Thursday's joint practice with the Minnesota Vikings. "We kind of knew it was going to take time because, this summer, they was throwing a lot, and I wasn't able to go out there with those guys. But it's just good to see the chemistry building up, and we just getting better as a whole on offense."

How does Samuel evaluate Lance compared to last offseason when the then-very-inexperienced quarterback was fresh off being the No. 3 overall pick? What has the wideout seen during these two joint practices?

"Ever since we've been throwing and stuff, you see Trey getting better every day," Samuel responded. "We've never taken a step backwards. I think he's doing a real good job, and Kyle (Shanahan) doing a good job of coaching him up as far as where the ball need to go, and just being the quarterback that we need him to be."

Lance provides a different skill set for head coach Kyle Shanahan. The athletic 22-year-old can get the football deeper than his predecessor and improvise with his feet when things break down.

"I think that helps us a lot," Samuel said. "For the defense as well, because it's not too many coverages you can play with a mobile quarterback like Trey, so it kind of puts a lot of pressure on them."

Samuel remembers what it is like being an NFL rookie, having so much information thrown at you. For a quarterback, the pressure of quickly consuming and mastering that information is immense, especially for someone expected to become the face of the franchise.

"I think he's doing a pretty good job," Samuel said. "With him being a quarterback, he's the guy that commands the offense. We've got a lot of guys that's been around for a while just to help him out a little bit, even when he's struggling, so I feel like Trey's going to be really good. ... Last year, it was just a learning curve for him with everything in this offense thrown at him. ... I've been there as a rookie. As you grow in this offense, you get better and better. You get confidence. He had a good offseason with his quarterback coach and getting his arm and whatever they was working on back ready. He's pretty good."

Samuel isn't the only one who has seen improvement in the second-year quarterback.

"I've seen consistent improvement," tackle Trent Williams admitted. "I've seen him go against different looks from our defense to this [Vikings] defense. I've seen him continually make strides every day. And I've seen him poised in the pocket. I've seen him getting through his reads, not getting chatter feet, and just looking for somewhere to run. That's all we can ask for. He's going to continue to improve, and we've got a ton of confidence in the kid."

Reporters asked the veteran players about Lance's ability to take over as the 49ers' leader, and what that has entailed for the quarterback.

"He doesn't have to try to be anybody different or try to go outside to become like this," linebacker Fred Warner said. "Yeah, the quarterback position has to be a leader. You're commanding the offense. You're leading the offense. There's going to be tough times in a game where all 10 guys are going to be looking at you like, 'Let's go. We've got to go win a two-minute drive,' or do something.

"But it's not him being something that he's not. It's him coming to work every day, being consistent, knowing that he's putting the work in, and being a guy that everybody can rely on. That's leadership."

Williams, a natural leader at this point in his career, is 34 years old—12 years older than Lance. The offensive lineman sees natural leadership qualities in his young quarterback but acknowledges that there are a lot of leaders on offense. No one is asking Lance to take on that role by himself.

"We've got older guys on this offense," Williams said. "I'm not going to just, say, force him to anything just because he plays a particular position, and that's what the outside thinks, this position has to lead the offense. That's not necessarily true.

"He's 22, and he has a natural leader instinct. But when you've got myself, (George) Kittle, Deebo, all those guys in the huddle, he's going to let them say—let us say whatever we've got to say. And then he commands the huddle. He's got a great grip on the offense. That's all we can ask of him."

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