Trey Lance 49ers debut: Rookie impresses, tosses touchdown bomb

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports /

49ers rookie quarterback Trey Lance made his NFL debut on Saturday night against the Chiefs, and Niner Noise takes a look at what happened early.

A collective groan filled Levi’s Stadium on Saturday night when rookie quarterback Trey Lance nearly completed his first NFL-level pass on his first dropback, albeit a preseason one, only to see wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk drop it when it hit him in his hands.

At least Lance hit Aiyuk in stride.

Nevertheless, the San Francisco 49ers first-year signal-caller balanced that out with a rousing level of applause after he took the field following starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo‘s opening drive on Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1 of the preseason.

Lance got some of that initial work in with the starters early after Garoppolo exited, although the rookie’s opening drive culminated in a sack by Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones, who bowled over right guard Daniel Brunskill, effectively leaving Lance no chance.

But that was just one drive.

Trey Lance tosses touchdown bomb on his second, 49ers’ third drive

A good quarterback can put whatever negatives behind him quickly, and Lance certainly did that at the start of his second drive, the Niners’ third of the game.

All Lance needed was one play, connecting with wide receiver Trent Sherfield for an 80-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass:

Not only was that beautiful, but it’s the kind of throw Garoppolo would either hesitate or struggle to make. Yet Lance’s strong arm, despite his lack of experience in college at North Dakota State, was just one of the many traits that drew San Francisco towards being so aggressive to land him last spring.

Lance got a shot to add on to his impressive debut later in the first half, thanks to rookie cornerback Deommodore Lenoir registering a timely interception.

Lenoir, too, had himself a quality first NFL-level game.

The 49ers only managed a field goal that following drive, and Lance continued to feel the pass-rushing pressure behind a makeshift offensive line in full preseason mode. But at least the rookie showcased the potential for elusiveness.

Another element Garoppolo doesn’t have.

Halfway through the second quarter, and with the Niners inserting more and more of their backups, Lance completed a 34-yard pass to backup tight end Charlie Woerner despite being pressed up against the goal line. It was impressive watching Lance go through his progressions, too, and rare were the throws at the wrong targets soon to be covered.

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And Lance’s first three incomplete passes? All drops. The first one on Aiyuk, and the second one was dropped by backup wide receiver River Cracraft, while the third was dropped by Richie James.

Hard to pin those on Lance.

Overall on his debut, Lance went 5-of-12 for 128 yards, a touchdowns against zero interceptions for a 120.8 passer rating by the time the first half came to a close. There were a couple of sacks he could have avoided, two risky passes and a nearly lost strip-sack fumble didn’t look great either.

But the overall body of work? Impressive.

True, it’s preseason. But the rookie signal-caller sure looks good so far based on all the evidence available now.

Next. 4 things 49ers need to accomplish in preseason opener vs. Chiefs. dark