Where is Trey Lance in his development? 5 burning questions for 49ers training camp

The San Francisco 49ers report to Santa Clara for training camp on Tuesday and will hit the field for their first practice on Wednesday.

Here are five questions to watch for during training camp.

  1. Where is Trey Lance in his development?

San Francisco used three first-round draft pics to acquire Trey Lance with the third selection of the 2021 draft. Lance saw action in six games, including starts at Arizona and against Houston at Levi’s Stadium in week 17. 

Lance is an explosive player that needs to learn how to be efficient and keep the sticks moving. As a rookie, Lance completed only 57.7 percent of his passes, and the 49ers offense converted only 29 percent of the time on third down with him on the field. 

With Jimmy Garoppolo’s time with the 49ers ending, Lance took all the snaps with the starters. He showed a more compact throwing motion and looked solid, completing slightly under 75 percent of his throws. Lance will need to keep that pace up and show he can be a competent game manager moving forward.

  1. How will the offensive line come together?

San Francisco will turn to 2021 third-round pick Aaron Banks to fill the hole left by the departure of Laken Tomlinson in free agency. The more pressing question is who will take over at the center position.

Jake Brendel handled all of the first team reps during offseason practices. Initially signed in 2020, Brendel is a virtual unknown, which explains why the 49ers staff has gone out of their way to build him up. A journeyman, Brendel has started only three games and played 250 offensive snaps since coming into the NFL in 2016.

The health of Mike McGlinchey is another question among this group. McGlinchey is working to come back from a torn quad tendon suffered in week nine against Arizona. 

If Brendel and McGlinchey don’t work out as planned, there will be a major scramble to find the best five to protect Trey Lance and open holes in the run game.

  1. Who starts in the slot?

San Francisco lost K’Waun Williams in free agency, leading to an opening at slot corner. 

Darqueze Dennard was the first man up, working with the first team through OTAs and minicamp. After joining the team late last season, the former Bengals first-round draft pick impressed the 49ers coaching staff. Dennard has the size San Francisco typically looks for at the position and has shown the ability to cover and help in run support from inside. 

Moving Emmanuel Moseley into the slot and bringing Jason Verrett or Ambry Thomas in to play the outside is another possible solution. 

Others in the running are fifth-round draft pick Samuel Womack, Deommodore Lenoir, undrafted rookie free agent Qwuantrezz Knight, and veteran Dontae Johnson. 

  1. Who replaces Jaquiski Tartt at safety?

The 49ers selection of Talanoa Hufanga in 2021 seemed to signal that Jaquiski Tartt’s time with the team was ending. This scenario played out as the veteran safety signed a free agent deal with Philadelphia.

Hufanga was given plenty of opportunities to learn on the job, playing 395 defensive snaps as a rookie and making three starts. 

If Hufanga struggles, the 49ers will turn to either Tarvarius Moore or George Odum. Moore missed all last season due to a torn Achilles tendon, while Odum started seven games for Indianapolis. 

  1. Which running backs make the cut?

The two running backs that appear certain to make the final roster are Elijah Mitchell and Tyrion Davis-Price. 

Mitchell rushed for 963 yards and five touchdowns to lead the 49ers as a rookie. The main question with Mitchell is health; he missed six games last season due to injury. In an effort to stay healthy, Mitchell has added some weight to his frame this offseason.

San Francisco uses a third-round pick on Davis-Price to bolster their rushing attack. Davis-Price is a bruising runner who seemed to get better as games wore on in college. 

Mitchell and Davis-Price will be joined in camp by Trey Sermon, Jeff Wilson Jr., JaMycal Hasty, and undrafted rookie free agent Jordan Mason. Each of these backs, except for Hasty, has a similar body type and skillset; big bodies are best when attacking between the tackles. 

Keep an eye on Jordan Mason. The rookie from Georgia Tech looked explosive during offseason workouts and could push one of the veterans in front of him off the roster. 

**Bonus Question**

Will Deebo Samuel show up to training camp?

Samuel requested a trade this offseason while in a contract dispute. So far, a new deal has not been reached.

The wideout was in attendance for mandatory minicamp, however he did not participate in either practice. Samuel has been working out recently in the Bay Area recently. His presence in practice would be beneficial towards building rapport with Trey Lance.

This article has 8 Comments

  1. Trey is going to be Trey. The big question is how much he will improve over the year. Another question is: will Shanahan learn how to maximize his skill set. To me, the game plan against AZ in Trey’s first start was the worst game plan of Shanahan’s 49er tenure. Putting your starting QB at risk with designed interior runs is asinine in my opinion.

    Having said that, any question about Trey Lance is secondary to the performance of the O-line. I still can not believe the 49ers are going into training camp with Jake Freaking Brendel as their starting Center. You could make an argument that interior o-line play cost the 49ers games in the 2 most important games of the Shanahan era. Chris Jones wrecked critical plays in the 4th qtr of the Superbowl on interior rushes and Aaron Donald wrecked critical plays in the 4th qtr on interior rushes in the NFCCG last year. Unfathomable to me, the 49ers are going into this season with such an unproven o-line. I truly hope I’m wrong but this o-line has the makings of a bottom half O-line in the NFL.

    1. Offensive line pass protection = Elephant in the room! The most important statistic for 2022 is the number of “Look out blocks”.

    2. Shanahan has proven year after year that he can win with mediocre offensive lineman. Did we ever make the offensive line a reason for Jimmy G mistakes or injuries?

  2. OL will keep the Niners from the Superbowl, if not the playoffs. Niners have, for years, refused to draft or acquire a top young center. Brendel will likely be gone before the season starts or shortly thereafter.

  3. 1.) Where is Trey Lance in his development?

    That won’t be answered until the regular season when he actually can get hit. We have already heard and seen his greatness with shorts and a non contact jersey on. Dude is a freak athlete.

    2.) How will the offensive line come together?

    I love this point! I think we are all hoping for a guy like Burford or West emerges. Splash Cousin has Nick Zakelj as a sleeper at the C position.

    3.) Who will start at slot corner?

    This is a concern with me along with number 4. Johnson is a lock to make the roster and I see him as the back up slot CB. Also like Jack’s proposal because that gets your best 3 CB’s on the field.

    4.) Who replaces Tartt at Strong Safety?

    I like Hufanga in this spot. You just get the vibe this guy always going to be picking tipped balls, falling on fumbles, and punching balls loose. That being said there will be some growing pains.

    Hufanga thrives on instinct and Ward thrives on communication. To me that presents an issue in critical situations. Remember how awful this team was on 3rd and long last year? Absolutely horrendous!

    5.) Who makes the cut at RB?

    Price, Sermon, Mitchell, & Wilson

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