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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Why Louis Riddick isn’t confident about the 49ers in 2023

May 16, 2023 at 4:48 PM--

Many expect the San Francisco 49ers to be title contenders in 2023 despite some quarterback uncertainty. Why? Because the team is no stranger to quarterback uncertainty. Yet, head coach Kyle Shanahan has led his squad to the NFC Championship Game in three of the past four seasons.

One former NFL executive turned ESPN analyst believes everyone should pump the brakes on the 49ers hype train.

"We don't quite know what Brock is going to look like coming off of injury, heading into training camp," Louis Riddick said this week on the Rich Eisen Show. "We don't quite know what's even going on with Trey Lance."

Brock Purdy is coming off surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tear in his right elbow. His recovery will run through most—if not all—of the offseason.

Trey Lance, the former No. 3 overall pick, has started just four games despite entering his third NFL season. If Purdy isn't ready for the start of the season, Lance hopes to be the one on the field for Week 1.

Riddick has been hearing things about another 49ers quarterback, though—one acquired via free agency.

"I'll tell you what, I had someone tell me this just recently," Riddick shared with Rich Eisen. "They believe that Sam Darnold, in that match with Kyle Shanahan out there in San Francisco, that could finally be the spot that totally makes him become the out-of-nowhere surprise of the year.

"I had someone who I trust implicitly when it comes to quarterback play [tell me that]. I'm telling you, I said to him, I was like, 'What?' They're like, 'Just trust me on this one.'"

Riddick admits that Darnold beating out Lance in an offseason competition is a strong possibility.

"And there's nobody who's a bigger Trey Lance fan than me," he shared. "There may be, but I'm a huge believer. I couldn't be more disappointed for how things have happened for him. So I'm inclined to go, 'Look, he deserves the benefit of the doubt. He deserves another opportunity. He got hurt.' We just don't know who he is."

Still, even Darnold flourishing isn't enough to convince Riddick that the 49ers winning the NFC West is a foregone conclusion. He believes there are weaknesses on the roster that may allow a team like the Seattle Seahawks to overtake the reigning NFC West champions.

Injuries are consistently an issue for the 49ers. The team has struggled to stay healthy. The most recent example is San Francisco reaching its fourth quarterback on the depth chart last season, and even he got injured, leaving no one capable of throwing the football for the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.

"But now we're saying, 'Okay, are we banking on [RB] Christian McCaffrey staying healthy for 17 games?'" Riddick said. "Are we banking on [RB] Elijah Mitchell staying healthy for 17 games? Are we banking on [TE] George Kittle staying healthy for 17 games?

"This offensive line, [are] we banking on [LT] Trent Williams staying healthy for 17 games? The right side of their offensive line between Spencer Burford and Colton McKivitz, who are their right guard and right tackle now, are we saying that these guys ... they have one elite player on their offensive line. One, and he's not always healthy all the time. [WR] Deebo [Samuel] is not always healthy all the time.

"So although this team has a bunch of studs—I mean, this offense has a bunch of studs—there's a lot of questions there for me, and I'm just saying relative to what Seattle is doing right now. ... I'm just saying, Seattle, to me, it looks like a team that made a huge jump last year, and with the firepower they added this offseason, I think Seattle is ready to really, really burst onto the scene."

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