The second grading period has come to a close for the 49ers’ draft picks. Unfortunately, a few of them were unable to attend, however, let’s take a look at how those that were presently performed.
Trey Lance: Grade B- (week 1 grade, B-)
Lance had a bit of uneven performance. He started the game by hitting only one of his first six attempts, with one of those misses being an interception after Mohamed Sanu was unable to hold onto a short pass over the middle. In fairness to Sanu, the pass was a bit high and had far too much tempo for the distance between the two.
Perhaps the worst play of the night for Lance came with 5:01 left in the second quarter. Facing third and five, Lance was flushed out of the pocket to his left. There appeared to be enough room for him to scramble for a first down but Lance instead held onto the ball and was sacked for a loss of three. While Lance is an exceptional athlete, he usually does not look to take off running. He did this often at North Dakota State however the NFL is much faster so his internal clock needs to catch up to the speed of the game.
After the sack, Lance was able to get locked in, hitting seven of his final nine pass attempts. Faced with less than a minute left in the first half, Lance missed his first pass before hitting on his next four as he led the offense down the field before hitting Mohamed Sanu with a five-yard touchdown throw. The touchdown was set up by a beautiful deep throw down the right sideline that hit Trent Sherfield in stride for a gain of 41 yards.
Lance’s final possession of the game was everything that 49ers fans could hope for, featuring a number of exceptional plays from the quarterback. Facing second and six, Lance finally took off on a scramble of eight yards to pick up the first down. A few plays later, Lance would roll to his left after a play fake and loft a perfect touch pass that hit Richie James in stride for a gain of 11.
The final play of the night for Lance was near perfection. Facing third and four from the 16-yard line, Lance created space over the middle by moving the inside linebacker to the left with his eyes before whipping his head back to throw a dart to Travis Benjamin in the now open space.
Lance is young and there will be some ups and downs, but what has been shown through the first two preseason games is only a small part of what Lance has done on the practice field during training camp. After the game, Kyle Shanahan would not name Jimmy Garoppolo the starter for week one at Detroit. Shanahan needs to realize that Lance will only get better the more he plays, and move forward with Lance. This is the move that is best for the team, and Shanahan has already proven that he can reach the playoffs with a rookie quarterback.
Aaron Banks: Did not play (week 1 grade, C)
Banks suffered a shoulder injury against Kansas City. He will be out for two to three weeks.
Trey Sermon: Did not play (week 1 grade, C+)
Sermon was held out with an ankle injury. It is not expected to be serious.
Ambry Thomas: Grade C (week 1 grade, B)
For the most part, Thomas played about the same as he did last week against the Chiefs, but he gave up a deep completion to second-year receiver Jalen Guyton which knocks his grade down. Thomas appeared to have good coverage on Guyton as they ran down the right sideline, but when he turned his head to locate the ball Guyton was able to pull away for an easy catch.
On the positive side, Thomas came back on the next play to make a solid tackle to hold the running back to a short gain. Every cornerback is going to get beat deep. That response from Thomas was a good sign.
Jaylon Moore: Grade B (week 1 grade C)
Moore took the majority of reps with the first team during practices after Trent Williams went down with knee swelling. Those additional reps appeared to pay off as Moore showed a good deal of improvement, especially with his pass protection. After giving up a sack last week, the young left tackle allowed no quarterback pressures over 33 pass blocking snaps against the Chargers
While the pass blocking improved, there were still some issues in the run game. Moore was beat a couple of times, the most egregious being a missed down block that led to running back Wayne Gallman getting crushed in the backfield just after receiving the handoff from Nate Sudfeld.
Deommodore Lenoir: Grade B+ (week 1 grade B)
Lenoir made his second start of the preseason and once again performed well, breaking up a pass over the middle on third and five to end the Chargers opening drive of the game. Through two games, Lenoir has allowed a passer rating of 0.0. His play so far is what I thought Ambry Thomas would be.
Talanoa Hufanga: Grade B (week 1 grade B-)
With Tavon Wilson being held out, the start at strong safety would go to Hufanga. He didn’t get very many opportunities in the pass game, but would knife through the Chargers’ offensive line to drop Chargers running back Joshua Kelly in the backfield for a loss of two yards. The first down stop played a big role in the defense holding Los Angeles to a field goal after getting deep into 49ers territory late in the first half.
Elijah Mitchell: Did not play
Mitchell has been out due to an abductor strain. He likely will not return to practice until after the end of the preseason.