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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

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Conor Orr: Why Trey Lance might be better for the 49ers

Apr 1, 2023 at 10:06 AM--

Sports Illustrated's Conor Orr recently ranked the San Francisco 49ers' skill-position group as the best in the NFL. When you look at the talent, names like Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk, it's tough to argue otherwise.

There is less certainty when it comes to the quarterback position. Trey Lance entered this past season as the starter. Rookie Brock Purdy finished the season as the frontrunner to be the guy in 2023.

Of course, Purdy is recovering from the March 10 surgery to repair the UCL tear he suffered in the NFC Championship Game, an injury that will likely sideline him until sometime in September.

That leaves Lance with a significant opportunity to impress his coaches this offseason and narrow the gap between Purdy and himself. It'll be an uphill battle, for sure, and he has to compete with veteran Sam Darnold now.

If Purdy were healthy, there wouldn't be much of a debate. He showed enough to end the season to prove he can play in the NFL and that the 49ers can win with him under center. However, Orr believes it may be Lance, not Purdy, who can elevate head coach Kyle Shanahan's offense to another level.

"[B]y the end of next year, let's say more than half of the league is going to be running this offense, right?" Orr recently explained on the 49ers Webzone No Huddle Podcast. "In some way, shape, or form, right? I think we're at like 40 percent, the last time that I checked.

"But none of those teams that run it—and again, correct me if I'm wrong—have a mobile quarterback. I don't know if I'm missing anybody or if I'm maybe underplaying somebody's athleticism, but when half the league is running an offense, and 100 percent of the defensive coordinators are spending their entire offseason preparing for basically the outer reaches of what that system can do, Trey Lance is the one guy that can blow that whole thing up."

Orr added, "Brock Purdy can't."

While Purdy has shown enough mobility to get himself out of some tough situations, Lance is clearly the more athletic option, providing Shanahan with an added dynamic to his offense.

Lance just needs to stay healthy. He is coming off a season-ending ankle injury that limited him to two games in 2022. Lance struggled through injuries during his rookie campaign, too, starting only two games in 2021. That's four total starts for Lance, a quarterback whose biggest knock entering the league was his lack of experience.

An athletic Lance in Shanahan's offense might be tougher for opposing defensive coordinators to game plan against.

"Brock Purdy can follow the rules better than Trey Lance, but Trey Lance can dictate new rules," Orr added. "And so that was always my understanding of the impetus behind the pick. And whether or not they want to keep pushing in that direction, I'm not sure.

"But it's just like, to me, it makes all the sense in the world to throw all your investments behind him. And Purdy is not going anywhere. He's not costing you anything, and you're not losing him at any point. So, I don't know. I think you give it another go with Trey Lance."


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