49ers’ Lance has uneven performance; 5 burning questions for preseason week 2 answered

San Francisco 49ers running back Wayne Gallman is tackled during the second half of a preseason NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

The 49ers notched their first victory of the 2021 preseason with a 15-10 defeat of the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night at SoFi Stadium.

The theme of the week was all about showing improvement from week one. Let’s take a look at the answers to the 5 burning questions that I asked on before the game to see who improved and who didn’t.

1. How will the quarterbacks look? UNEVEN

Jimmy Garoppolo only played one series for the second week in a row. That one series was vintage Garoppolo, featuring a number of short throws to keep the sticks moving and getting the offense down to the Chargers’ 33-yard line. Facing third and 11, Garoppolo had Brandon Aiyuk wide open over the middle for a first down but his throw sailed high and the wide receiver could not hang on. The tipped ball would be intercepted by Chargers rookie CB Asante Samuel Jr. The turnover ended up being Garoppolo’s final play of the night, with the veteran finishing 3-6 for 15 yards with one interception and one scramble for 10 yards.

Trey Lance would have a bit of uneven performance in his second NFL game. The rookie missed Deebo Samuel with an inaccurate throw to end his first drive of the game and throw an interception on his second.

Things turned around for Lance late in the first half when he would lead the offense on a six-play, 75-yard scoring drive in the final moments of the first half that would culminate with a five-yard touchdown throw to Mohamed Sanu. The touchdown was set up by a beautiful deep throw from Lance to Trent Sherfield down the right sideline for a gain of 41 yards.

On the second possession of the second half, Lance once again lead the 49ers’ offense down the field. The 10 play, 63-yard drive featured a nice scramble by Lance to pick up a first down, and a bootleg pass to Richie James, and ended when the rookie drilled the ball over the middle to Travis Benjamin who took the ball into the endzone.

Lance finished his night 8-14, 102 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He was also able to add eight yards on the ground.

Nate Sudfeld saw his first action as a member of the 49ers in mop up duty, completing three of his five attempts for 24 yards.

2. Will the pass blocking improve? YES

The 49ers’ pass blocking was much improved from a week ago. Trey Lance was sacked twice, but one of those was due to him holding the ball instead of running for a first down after breaking out of the pocket to his left.
With rookie Aaron Banks out of the lineup, the 49ers juggled their second offensive line, moving Colton McKivitz to right guard and Senio Kelemete to left guard. This change seemed to help the interior of that second unit hold up better in pass protection.

The second sack of Lance came at the expense of third-team right tackle Corbin Kaufusi. He won’t make the final roster, so it’s odd that you’d have your future franchise quarterback out there with him.

3. Will the running game get going? YES

After struggling to generate any movement upfront last week, the San Francisco offensive line did a much better job against Los Angeles. Wayne Gallman and JaMycal Hasty would combine for 121 on 30 carries before the 49ers started to run the clock out at the end of the game. The average of four yards per carry was a big jump.

The biggest running play of the game probably went unnoticed by most, and it came on Trey Lance’s final drive of the night. Facing first and twenty after a penalty, Kyle Shanahan called a draw to Wayne Gallman that would pick up seven yards. This would get the offense back into a manageable situation for second down and they would finish the drive off in the endzone.

4. Can the 49ers figure out their kickoff return? Not conclusive

Richie James was back for three kickoff returns and downed two of them in the endzone to give the 49ers the ball at the 25, which was a positive change. The negative was James gaining only 18 yards the one time he attempted a return. This came on a free kick after Jordan Willis sacked Easton Stick in the endzone for a safety.

Free-agent acquisition Nsimba Webster showcased his talent as a returner for the second game in a row. On his lone opportunity, Webster would bring the ball out from two yards deep in the endzone and get to the 25 before being brought down. At least he gives the 49ers a threat in the return game.

At this point, it’s hard to see what value James brings to the team. He hasn’t been good as a returner and has consistently dropped passes throughout camp.

5. Can the 49ers secondary put up a repeat performance? YES

Just like they did a week ago, the San Francisco secondary did an excellent job of containing the Chargers through the air, holding them to an average of only 4.1 yards per pass.

The 49ers started all three of their rookie secondary players from the 2021 draft. While Ambry Thomas gave up a deep completion down the right sideline, Deommodore Lenoir had a solid pass break up over the middle, and Talanoa Hufanga showed up strong in the run game for the second week in a row. Hufanga may have a shot at replacing Tavon Wilson at strong safety with the improvement he has shown so far.

The strong play by the secondary has been helped greatly by a ferocious pass rush that just keeps coming throughout the game. Against the Chargers, the San Francisco defense registered five sacks. Among those was the first for Samson Ebukam as a member of the 49ers when he chased down Easton Stick.

The pass rush would put the first points on the board when Jordan Willis blew by the Chargers’ right tackle to sack Stick in the endzone for a safety. The other three sacks came from Arik Armstead, Kai Nacua and Kentavius Street. Street being near the bottom of the depth chart for the final roster shows just how dominant the potential of this group is.

This article has 26 Comments

  1. I thought Lance looked like he was traveling up the learning curve in this game, and that’s all you want to see from the young phenom.

    The draw by Gallman looked more like a 12-15 yarder.

    James hasn’t been a good returner. His hands are suspect, and he won’t block. I don’t see how he’s on this team either.

    Hurst’s ankle injury may open the door for Street to make the roster.

    1. I always thought Street could be a guy that gets traded before week 1. He has a $1 million cap hit and is a free agent. Why not flip him to NE for a late round pick.

      Krueger and Lund were talking last night about sending a D-Lineman for a CB for more depth. I sort of like that idea.

      Anyway you bring a good point with Hurst injury they might not have to make a decision for a few more weeks.

  2. Can’t take much from preseason. This team will look much different in Week 1 and dramatically different in Week 4. The one guy who worries me is Travis Benjamin. The guy is fools gold. He can make plays against the 2s but he’s mostly always locked down by the 1s. I don’t think he’s good in the return game either. Does not deserve a roster spot. I’d rather see Richie James get a chance to shake off the nerves and get back to form on the active roster than wasting a spot on Travis Benjamin.

    1. I thought Benjamin finally showed up last night, and he is one of the 49ers best receivers at taking the top off the defense and getting open deep, but my biggest beef with him, is the same gripe I have with Richie James, that neither one of these guys seem capable of making a halfway difficult catch, and I’m not really impressed with their performances on special teams either. Right now I’d round out the WR corps with Jennings and Webster. Jennings brings a lot of effort and physicality, and Webster seems to be the best best kick returner, and all around solid as a special teamer.

      I think Kyle keeps 6 WR’s and I see it like this:

      1a) AIYUK
      1b) SAMUEL
      3a) SANU
      3b) SHERFIELD
      5) JENNINGS
      6) WEBSTER

      Hurd to IR, maybe?

      1. Jennings has not done enough in camp yet. I think Benjamin is a lock at this point. His familiarity with Shanahan and veteran presence along with Sanu is what a team with super bowl aspirations needs.

        Jennings and Hurd to the PS.

      2. I can’t really argue with that group of 6 WRs. I don’t think Webster has done enough to make the final roster. I’d rather see James on the active roster and Webster on the PS. I really do like Hurd but at this point I think the 49ers have given him enough opportunities. Wouldn’t hurt my feelings if the 49er stashed him on IR so he can get another year to possibly recover. I don’t think they should waste a PS spot for him though.

  3. A few other takeaways after last night:

    – If Bosa and Ford come back strong, this front 7 can be better than the 2019 version, so the pass defense will benefit. However, the Niners defensive backfield looks plenty strong on its own, with some notable young players like Mayden, Lenoir, and Hufanga really showing out!

    Things I like:

    – The 49ers are set at Linebacker, IMO.

    – I have a lot of confidence in DC DeMeco Ryans. From the looks of the depth they built on this defense, this looks like a championship caliber defense.

    – Kyle has the best stable of RB’s he’s had as the 49ers HC, and that’s an exciting development! Wayne Gallman’s ability to run between the tackles is as advertised, he looks like a great complement to this group, and Hasty looks noticably stronger this year!

    My concerns:

    – The QB situation seems unsettled. I appreciate the fact that Jimmy ditched his knee brace , he definitely looks a little more agile. That said, he still doesn’t look poised as a passer. The biggest thing for me is that I am still seeing the same mechanical flaws, in particular poor footwork, and his ball placement looks consistently shaky as a result. As far as Trey’s accuracy issues, to me it just seems as if he’s gripping the ball too tightly on the throws where he absolutely lets it rip, and it’s hard to throw accurately when gripping and ripping it like he does at those times (they tend to sail high). However, I do think as he settles himself down and gets more comfortable out there, he’s going to be fine. You can see that he can throw with plenty of touch when he wants to, just look at both of the beautiful deep throws to Sherfield in back-to-back weeks. Trey just needs the reps, it’s really that simple, because you can see him quickly growing, and getting better with each and every snap that he takes. The physical talents …. my goodness, they absolutely JUMP off of the TV screen, and the good news is that he can lean on that physical ability as he develops and learns the nuances of the position.

    – Special Teams was better last night, but still not great, IMO. Hopefully they continue to trend in the right direction.

    – My only other concern is the lack of depth along the OL. Skule and Coleman’s injuries seems to have had a domino effect along the OL. Jaylin Moore is clearly out of position at OT, and that’s doubly a shame because Banks is nowhere near ready, and I really like Moore’s potential at OG.

  4. Jack these sentences make NO sense. Are you using auto-correct?
    Garoppolo would have Brandon Aiyuk wide open over the middle for a first down but he would sail the ball high and the wide receiver would not be able to hang on. The tipped ball would be intercepted by Chargers rookie CB Asante Samuel Jr. The turnover would be Garoppolo’s final play of the night, finishing 3-6 for 15 yards with one interception and one scramble for 10 yards.

    1. Jack, you see why your use of ‘would’ is not only repetitive but creates a lack of clarity.
      Would is an auxiliary verb – a modal auxiliary verb. We use would mainly to:
      – talk about the past
      – talk about the future in the past
      -express the conditional mood

      We also use ‘would’ for other functions, such as:

      – expressing desire, polite requests and questions, opinion or hope, wish and regret

    2. Dee, Thank you for pointing that out. It appears that like the 49ers rookies, I am still in preseason mode and also need to show improvement heading into week 3.

      1. Jack , correct grammar for the pedants aside, what you are doing is a 10000% improvement over what we’ve had in this PD blog the last year

  5. On a different note, is sideline behavior. I wrote last week how Lance was looking uncomfortable. This week there was a long shot of him looking up at the Jumbotron, seeing himself and starting to adjust his hair and hairband, then looking up again at himself to see if it is OK. Then starting to fiddle with his earpiece as if he’s getting a message, looking up again, fiddling again etc.
    I saw a young kid, with earrings, not being comfortable with himself. Not knowing what to do . Why is this significant? People like that are easily rattled and will feel pressured to make decisions when they are not ready.
    Compare it with JG’s demeanor and you’ll see what I mean.
    I hope Lance sits out the season for his own good.

    1. I hate to be a hater but your nit picking the grammar and how Lance acts on the sideline. Neither most people care about.

      1. James,
        1- I think Jack cares about grammar and clear communication….
        2- I think a QB, or any player, comes as a package. Sideline demeanor is part of the game.
        Some of the sacks were because Lance didn’t have situational awareness or peripheral vision. Greg Cosell mentioned that Lance is trying to hurry his passes. You think that comes from insecurity?

  6. I thought that Aiyuk looked terrible last night.
    Kerr looks like he could replace Kinlaw until he gets healthy.
    I think Thomas was better than most are saying. His PI was a bad call and the long pass he was stride for stride with the WR until he turned his head.
    I hope they use their depth on the D line to trade for a OG move Brunskill to swing tackle and back up C. They can strengthen 3 positions with one move

  7. Lance handled the adversity of the slow start well and finished out the game strong.
    He’s learning and you can see it. He’s going to make the 49ers so much better this season.
    Starting Jimmy would be a shame.

    1. Considering Lance has only played 1 game for over a year and only have thrown the ball just little over 300 and learning a complex playbook at the same time is remarkable to even see him play at this level. And we’re still haven’t seen his strengths…

      1. That’s true, ricardo, we still haven’t seen the Trey Lance offense. It’s going to look a lot different than this generic preseason offense.

        That said, I am a little concerned about the 49ers Quarterbacks Coach, Rich Scangarello. He never played QB and I don’t see anything on his resume that would suggest he knows what he’s doing. I’ve placed some of the blame at Kyle’s feet, but knowing that Kyle’s scheme is proven to maximize a QB’s potential, I have to wonder if Scangarello is the weak link. I’m not convinced he knows what he’s doing when it comes to developing QB’s. For instance, I don’t understand why he hasn’t been doing more to work on the pace of Trey’s shorter passes, it seems like that should have been a point of emphasis. I also don’t know why we haven’t seen Garoppolo clean up his mechanics for going on his 3rd season with the same issues. I saw no growth with Nick Mullens and very-little-to-no growth with CJ Beathard. I’ve also heard that his training camp drills seem very strange, and seem counter productive.

        I still believe it’s going to be Lance starting by the bye week at the latest.

        1. BTW, Nate Sudfeld is Rich Scangerello’s guy. He brought him over from Phily. Does anyone on this blog think Sudfeld looks like a viable NFL QB? He’s tall, and that’s about the only positive thing I can say about the kid. I’m sorry, but he does not look like he belongs on an NFL football field to me!

          1. Right haha can’t forget Doug Pederson put him in to try and tank their season.

            Lombardi was saying that the 49ers could move him to practice squad and keep 2 QB’s active now that they have a backup behind Jimmy

  8. It seems like the coaching staff is moving away from smaller slot receivers Taylor /James to larger more athletic ones – Jennings/ Sanu/Sherfield . Good .

    1. I like Jennings’ physicality. That should help too in the run blocking… man, with Lance, the Niners run game will be scary good!

      1. That’s what I think as well, ricardo. Heck, it’s already scary good! With Lance it might just be unstoppable. Between that, and what seems like a championship defense, I think this is a contender with Trey Lance, provided he makes some strides throughout the season, which seems highly likely considering the rate in which he seems to be developing. I mean, didn’t we see growth in just 2.5 QTRS of football last night? I sure thought so. Once he settled in and settled down, he looked much more comfortable, and we haven’t even seen Kyle’s “Trey Lance offense” yet. Plus, Trey is just a cool cat. He doesn’t seem to actually get rattled, because I think he knows his ability, and understand that all he needs to do it stick with it, and push through the growing pains. Of course, it helps that he can lean on his mobility, which is why we’ve seen young mobile QB have success early in their careers. Kyle just needs to embrace it, and I think he will.

Comments are closed.