49ers depth chart: 4 questions about 2021 quarterback room
By Peter Panacy
The 49ers have multiple training camp battles at quarterback, including the starting bid between Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance, which prompts questions.
For the first time in a long time, there’s going to be plenty of juicy storylines emanating from San Francisco 49ers training camp about a serious quarterback competition.
A high-profile battle for the starting job between the returning veteran, Jimmy Garoppolo, and the high-profile rookie, Trey Lance, will likely dominate the headlines. This is something the Niners haven’t had in some time, and it marks the first hefty quarterbacking competition since head coach Kyle Shanahan took over duties back in 2017.
Unless you count Brian Hoyer versus C.J. Beathard versus Matt Barkley back that year, which you shouldn’t.
The winner of the pending Garoppolo-Lance camp battle is a massive question, of course, but it’s not the only one stemming from the four quarterbacks as San Francisco prepares for the 2021 season.
Let’s take a look at some key question marks with training camp now just days away.
49ers QB Question No. 1: Can Trey Lance close the gap with Jimmy Garoppolo?
Early during the 49ers’ organized team activity sessions, it appeared clear Garoppolo was still very much in command of the starting gig, showing the kind of veteran poise and experience necessary to successfully operate Shanahan’s complex offense.
While promising, Lance looked inexperienced early on and every part a first-year NFL quarterback with minimal collegiate experience.
By the end of OTAs, though, it looked as if Lance had made massive strides, at least according to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco (h/t Niners Nation):
"He might be the only person since I’ve been covering the team, which is about a quarter of a [century], that from one week of OTAs to the next week, you could actually see the improvement. The first week we went out there and he just kind of seemed to be a little bit unsure of himself, a tick slow. The ball was sailing high. You could tell there was just a lot going on in his head. And in the next week, he went out there and you could tell — he was directing traffic, moving guys from spot A to spot B, and he threw the ball a little bit more accurately. It’s not often that you see a dramatic change that you can see with your naked eye."
Around the same time, Niners lineman Daniel Brunskill told FanSided’s Matt Lombardo how much Lance had improved his understanding of the offense’s terminology, which can be rare for a rookie.
Another promising sign.
Yet those were padless practices with relatively low intensity. The real question will be when the pads come on and Lance’s intended receiving targets can now be bumped off their routes by press coverage.
The outcomes from those efforts will say a lot about where Lance is in his development and whether or not he has an actual chance of seizing the starting job from Jimmy G right away.