Trey Lance is slated for 30 snaps in his 49ers debut against the Chiefs tonight.
As exciting as it will be to see him perform, he will not be participating with any of the starters. After the opening series, the starting units will be pulled and the second unit along with Lance will step in, according to Kyle Shanahan. There is a risk in rolling out Lance with second unit offensive line as they have been horrible throughout training camp. Not to mention he won’t have any starting skill position players at his disposal.
It may seem like Shanahan is throwing a bunch of speed bumps at him, but there are actually benefits with Lance playing with the backups.
It all starts with the protection. Even though the backup offensive line has been horrible, Lance hasn’t been able to truly feel what it’s like to be pressured. You can only simulate so much in practice. This is partly why I believe Shanahan is adamant about Lance running with the backup offensive line.
It’s not that he wants to make it extremely difficult for him, but he is curious as to how he responds to real live pressure. This is something that Shanahan emphasized at his last presser and what he will be looking closely at against the Chiefs.
“I mean every time that you evaluate a run, you always talk about ‘Alright, how would you protect yourself here? How are you going down? Are you going for more or are you sliding? Are you going head first or are you stepping out of bounds?’ I don’t ever want a guy in practice to practice diving or sliding. You don’t want to hurt a wrist or get your feet caught in an awkward way.
“That’s something we’re all going to see in the game. Trey says the right things. He’s a pretty good runner. He’s pretty competitive. So, I hope he takes my word for it, but sometimes those guys don’t believe how hard people hit and then they get hit a couple of times in NFL they’re like ‘Alright, now I know what you’re talking about.”
This will all be revealed about Lance. A huge reason why Shanahan wants to see Lance in this situation is because Jimmy Garoppolo is atrocious at it. Yes, every quarterback will be a lesser version of themselves against pressure. But what Shanahan has continually harped on with pressure is a quarterback’s footwork and not jumping into a panic, which is what Garoppolo does.
Lance has the mobility to get out of these situations, but what about maneuvering in the pocket?
This will be somewhat revealed tonight.
Another benefit is that Lance gets to display his leadership. Running with the backups should give him the confidence and comfort knowing he can direct players and take the lead. That would be tough to do with experienced, high-level players such as George Kittle and others right off the bat. If he can show that and take the charge with this group, the starters will buy into him if he ever gets that chance with them.
Still, running with the backups is not ideal, but it is on Lance to make the most of it. Doing so will only stoke the fire for his claim to be the Week 1 starter.