National Football League
San Francisco 49ers racing to speed up Trey Lance's development
National Football League

San Francisco 49ers racing to speed up Trey Lance's development

Updated Aug. 15, 2022 6:38 p.m. ET

By Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports NFC West Writer

Longtime NFL coach Gus Bradley calls it a race for maturity.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance and coach Kyle Shanahan are immersed in the process of speeding up the second-year quarterback's development by giving him as many reps as possible at training camp. The Niners are rushing with the hope that Lance will be in control of the offense by Week 1 of the regular season.

Considering the 11 plays Lance executed in his team's preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers on Friday, he appears to be headed in the right direction. He finished 4-of-5 for 92 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown to speedster Danny Gray and no interceptions.


Lance was sacked once, had a seven-yard run and finished with a perfect 158.3 passer rating.

"That was my first time sliding in my whole entire life [on the seven-yard run]," Lance told reporters. "I'm sure guys were happy. I would have liked to probably move the chains, maybe [with] one step more. But I'm excited to go back and watch the tape … go through it with our coaches and our offense." 

Trey Lance shines in Week 1 of preseason

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Shanahan shut Lance down after two series. "I'd love to play him the whole game if you're guaranteed not to get hurt," the coach told reporters after the game. "Because with Trey, the more reps he can get, all it'll do is help, whether it's good or bad." 

Shanahan says he doesn't know if Lance will play in this week's preseason game at Minnesota on Saturday. The coach is more concerned about getting him reps during the joint workout practices between the two teams on Wednesday and Thursday. 

"You just like stuff that's real football, not against our own defense," Shanahan said.

A native of Marshall, Minnesota, Lance said he's excited to go back home this week and see friends and family. But from the Niners' standpoint, what's more important are the reps against the Vikings. They're crucial for the 22-year-old Lance, who played just one season at North Dakota State and started two games during his rookie season last year.

Simply put, Lance has not played a lot of football against high-quality opponents, dating back to his time in college.

Although just a brief glimpse, last week's game showed how having Lance as the team's starter can expand the playbook for the Niners, including more deep shots down the field and his ability to move the chains by using his feet. 

The key for Shanahan will be building up the defense and running game around Lance as he goes through his inevitable growing pains during the first half of the season.

There's a lot to like about Lance. At 6-foot-4 and 224 pounds, blessed with a strong arm and great speed, he is modeled after such versatile quarterbacks as Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert and Deshaun Watson

But Lance still must prove his worth on the field. He completed just 57.7% of his passes last season. And while reports from San Francisco's training camp are that his mechanics have improved, we must see it when the intensity increases during regular-season games. 

Did Lance prove 49ers made right decision naming him QB1?

Does Trey Lance's solid showing in the first preseason game prove that the 49ers made the correct decision to move forward with him and not Jimmy Garoppolo? Shannon Sharpe says to slow down.

Will Lance be efficient during crucial moments playing situational football — like third down, red zone and at the end of games? One reason San Francisco teammates like Jimmy Garoppolo is because more times than not, he played well in those clutch moments, helping the 49ers reach the Super Bowl and two NFC Championship Games during his tenure as the starter. 

Now that Garoppolo is moving on, Lance will have to show that he's capable of being efficient in those pressure moments and can elevate the play of his teammates. 

One person who believes Lance has the mental makeup to succeed is new San Francisco quarterbacks coach Brian Griese. 

"He has a humility about him that gives him a chance to learn from his mistakes and grow," said Griese, an 11-year NFL veteran whose father, Bob Griese, is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "I've been really encouraged about his demeanor. That's impressive for a young man his age. It's not natural. 

"The way that he interacts with his team, the way he operates on the field, the way he responds when he makes a mistake — all those things are very positive. That's on top of his physical skills, which are significant." 

Now it's just a matter of time, which is running short before the season starts.

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.


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