Rookie quarterback Trey Lance, the third overall pick in the 2021 draft, will make the first start of his NFL career on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
So, what does this mean for 49ers offense?
While there will be some tweaks, the offense will look very similar to what we’ve seen since Shanahan took over in 2017.
There are a number of concepts that have been a part of the 49ers offensive system that Trey Lance is familiar with from his time at North Dakota State. Here are some examples of what we could see from a Lance-led offense on Sunday.
1. Outside Screen
1) Outside screen pic.twitter.com/nhHPbcLYjB— Jack Hammer (@JackHammer_NFL) October 4, 2021
This is a very simple play designed to get an offensive playmaker quickly on the edge of the defense. It doesn’t require much from the quarterback with regards to reading the defense, but a well-placed pass can help lead the receiver upfield. In fact, we saw Lance execute this against Seattle on Sunday for a touchdown to Deebo Samuel late in the fourth quarter.
2. Bootlegs and waggles
2) Bootleg action pic.twitter.com/q5UCnuSgwj— Jack Hammer (@JackHammer_NFL) October 4, 2021
Bootleg and waggle passes off play action is one way to take advantage of your quarterback’s athleticism and take advantage of an over-aggressive defense. Generally, these plays allow the quarterback to have basic high to low reads with receivers flooding into a specific portion of the field. By getting Lance onto the edge of the defense you provide him an easier read along with an option to run if the receivers are covered.
3. Over routes with and without play action.
4) Over route out of shotgun pic.twitter.com/bERo1mYnSF— Jack Hammer (@JackHammer_NFL) October 5, 2021
Over routes is a staple of Kyle Shanahan’s offensive system. You see this when a receiver crosses the defense from one side of the field to the other. Usually, these routes are coupled with a deep vertical threat and another option short to flood a side of the field. You can see examples of this in both of the above plays.
Pairing the over route with play action can be especially difficult to defend. The play action element creates conflict for the linebacker, if they step up to play the run, they create an open hole for the receiver to run into but if they stay back the offense has one less player to stop the run.
We actually saw the 49ers run the over concept last week against Seattle and it was open but Lance chose to scramble instead of taking the throw.
4. Leak Concept
5) Leak concept pic.twitter.com/tIrS00yFjE— Jack Hammer (@JackHammer_NFL) October 5, 2021
This concept is play action in the backfield with a player sliding across the formation to leak out for a pass, hence the name. This play is designed to take advantage of the defense over playing the run.
The 49ers often make it look like they are running outside zone for the leak, but they have also shown it with the full back off inside play action.
Lance’s athletic ability only adds to the stress of this play for the defense, due to his ability to stretch out the play fake which also forces defenders to worry about him just taking off and using his legs.
5. Jet Sweep and outside zone
6) Jet Sweep pic.twitter.com/q0whUTMhWS— Jack Hammer (@JackHammer_NFL) October 5, 2021
The 49ers often try to attack the edge of the defense through the use of jet sweeps, a forward shovel pass, and wide outside zone runs from the shotgun.
With Jimmy Garoppolo these plays don’t threaten any part of the defense other than where the ball is going. That changes with Trey Lance in the game. Using a concept known as counter bash, Lance provides an inside run element that forces the defense to account for the middle of the field.
In the above examples, you can see Lance giving the ball on a jet sweep as well as faking the jet sweep and taking the ball up the middle for a touchdown. We saw Kyle Shanahan call this last week against Seattle during Lance’s first series in the game.
6. Zone read
7) Zone read pic.twitter.com/tKTiQ2gUFd— Jack Hammer (@JackHammer_NFL) October 8, 2021
There are a number of different ways to attack the defense with a zone read. At its core, this play requires the quarterback to read a defender, usually the defensive end. If the defensive end stays outside the quarterback gives the ball to the running back on a zone run, however, if the defensive end steps inside the quarterback will keep the ball and run it outside.
The 49ers have been running the zone read throughout Shanahan’s tenure, however, the quarterback keep was never really an option with the previous quarterbacks that have been on the roster.