Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Carr: Sam Darnold might have more ability than Brock Purdy, could be 49ers’ Week 1 starter

Mar 30, 2023 at 9:21 AM--

On Tuesday, NFL insider Ian Rapport, one of the NFL's most plugged-in reporters, made headlines declaring that, given the situation with the San Francisco 49ers, Sam Darnold would be the team's most likely Week 1 starting quarterback.

"We do not know what Trey Lance is going to be if he continues the trajectory that he's been on," Ian Rapoport said on NFL Network. "And I think, certainly, it seems Sam Darnold will more likely than not be the starter going into the season, but there is an opportunity for someone to step in there and start [the] first couple of games of the regular season for the 49ers."

Lance, the No. 3 overall draft pick in 2021, and Darnold, added this month via free agency, are expected to share practice reps this offseason. That could turn into a battle to be the 49ers' Week 1 starter. The quarterback Lynch called the "leader in the clubhouse," Brock Purdy, may not be available until early September at the soonest.

"It might be Week 1," head coach Kyle Shanahan said this week. "I think I'm hearing, at the latest, Week 4. But that's just all estimations, and we'll see what happens."

One of Rapoport's NFL Network colleagues, David Carr, also believes it might be Darnold, not Lance, on the field with the starters come Week 1.

"Trey Lance is still unproven in this league," Carr said on-air. "And so you insert Sam Darnold, who I think belongs in this system. I've actually been saying for the last couple of years [that] he would be great in a system like this.

"He finds himself with a great football team. I would even argue that he might have a little bit more ability than Brock Purdy. Although Brock again played great, fantastic as a rookie, I think Sam has a little more down-the-field ability and a lot of the same ability to move, ability to buy time, delegate the football.

"[Darnold] had a good year last year. He's going to enter this thing with a lot of reps. Trey is unproven. Sam is kind of proven in this league. So I think it's going to be very interesting. I wouldn't be surprised if Sam starts Week 1 and then Brock kind of comes in and does kind of what he did last year."

The analyst notes that Shanahan has a lot of confidence in his team and play-calling ability. Carr adds that the coach believes he can win with any of his three quarterbacks, suggesting they might be somewhat interchangeable in Shanahan's mind.

"I've talked to Kyle in the last few weeks, and you could just feel that," Carr said. "You can hear him in the press conferences, when he talks at the owners' meetings, he's like, 'No, I think this is going to be fun. This is the situation that we found ourselves in.'"

Purdy is recovering from March 10 surgery to repair the tear of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow, an injury suffered against the Philadelphia Eagles during the NFC Championship Game. The quarterback finished his rookie regular season completing 67.1 percent of his passes for 1,374 yards with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions after replacing an injured Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 13.

Purdy added 569 passing yards with three touchdowns in the playoffs but only managed four passing attempts in the NFC title game because of the injury.

"Brock played excellent football," Carr added. "Me and [Brian Baldinger] were talking about his ability. They plugged him in and didn't lose a game until he got knocked out against Philly. He played very well."

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