Trey Lance: What to expect from 49ers quarterback in Year 1

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) Mandatory Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) Mandatory Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports /

What should 49ers fans expect from the rookie sensation, quarterback Trey Lance? Will he start right away, or will he ride the bench behind Jimmy Garoppolo?

A lot of San Francisco 49ers fans seem to be divided on what the team should do with newly acquired rookie quarterback Trey Lance.

Some think he should outright sit behind current franchise signal-caller, Jimmy Garoppolo, for the entirety of the 2021 season, while others think Lance should immediately be thrust into the spotlight and take over as the face of the franchise.

The Niners didn’t trade up to No. 3 overall in this year’s NFL Draft to make Lance wait indefinitely after all.

I, on the other hand, lie somewhere in the middle, though.

Lance can gain a lot from sitting back and learning under the guidance of both Garoppolo and head coach Kyle Shanahan, but I don’t think Lance should be left out entirely from the weekly game plan.

How 49ers can use Trey Lance right away

Rookie quarterbacks don’t necessarily need to sit their first year in the pros to be successful, but it helps to ease a player into the NFL environment, especially when that player only has one year under his belt as a college starter, and only one game played since 2019 no less.

Lance’s biggest threats at the moment are his legs and his knack for driving the ball downfield with ease. He has all the athletic skills to be a total gamebreaker in this league, but his accuracy is slightly questionable at the moment and will need a good deal of work before he can be trusted to deliver precise passes during his pro career.

A good way to both ease Lance into action while also giving him some real NFL action is to use him in a gadget role similar to how quarterback Lamar Jackson was used in his rookie year for the Baltimore Ravens. This would involve Shanahan bringing Lance into the game for a scripted run or play-action passing play two or three times a game. This can give Lance a good idea of NFL game speed while also assuring he’s groomed well enough to step in when he is fully ready, which should be in the 2022 season.

So, where does that leave us in regards to expectations when it comes to Lance?

The most likely outcome is Lance will have some type of limited weekly role with the team, but we shouldn’t expect him to take over from Jimmy G, barring injury or poor play.

Related Story: 3 reasons Jimmy Garoppolo starts all of 2021

Lance will no doubt impress fans and the coaching staff whenever he’s in the game. He has the athletic profile to make something out of nothing and extend plays with his legs. Both these traits are elements Garoppolo lacks and will no doubt be the main points critics will bring up if Garoppolo fails to live up to his 2019 level of play.

If Jimmy G does stumble out of the gate, though, 90 percent of the media world and fans will be screaming to give Lance the reins of the franchise, and rightfully so. The constant debate over who should be leading the 49ers will loom over this franchise for the entirety of the upcoming season.

I do expect Jimmy G to hold onto the starting job for the entire season if he’s able to avoid the injury bug, so I it should be expected by fans that Lance will be at most a backup for his rookie year, albeit with some fun and creative plays sprinkled in.

Let’s hope Lance isn’t rushed into playing, but I do hope we get a glance of what’s to come beyond the upcoming year.

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