49ers vs. Chiefs efforts must carry over, improve vs. Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Anthony Lanier (90) tackles San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Shawn Poindexter Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Anthony Lanier (90) tackles San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Shawn Poindexter Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers visit the Chargers for Week 2 of the 2021 preseason, and this contest could say a lot about San Francisco’s direction this season.

Now that everyone finally had a chance to exhale and digest the San Francisco 49ers‘ first exhibition game of 2021, it’s time to start looking ahead to preseason game No. 2 versus the Los Angeles Chargers.

It was such a welcomed sight to see the return of football as well as the return of live fans back in the stands. It’s been a long and treacherous year-plus for the majority of humanity, but if there’s one thing (maybe two) that can help ease the pain, it’s food and sports.

The Niners began their 2021 campaign in a preseason loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Win, lose or draw, final results in the preseason are usually not as important as player/team evaluations. There were quite a few nice surprises from both sides of the ball.

However, the most highly anticipated position battle from training camp (quarterback) was on display against the Chiefs.

There weren’t a ton of sparks flying, and the stats don’t really jump off the page either, but we definitely got a small glimpse of what head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense could look like.

The quarterback competition kicked off with Jimmy Garoppolo leading a seven-play drive that ended with a punt. As you can imagine, the 49ers chose to sit a plethora of starters including left tackle Trent Williams and superstar tight end George Kittle. During Garoppolo’s only drive of the game, the offense looked smooth, crisp and decisive. What looked liked a promising drive quickly fizzled out due to an offensive interference call that ultimately stalled the drive.

Then, at the 8:07 mark of the first quarter, rookie sensation Trey Lance finally took the field for his first NFL game experience.

There were a number of moments in the game that validated Lance’s draft position, which was third overall in this year’s class. Then there were also moments that reminded us he’s still just a rookie with a learning curve to maneuver through.

His final stat line on the day was 5-of-14 with four dropped passes, one touchdown (an amazing 80-yard bomb to wide receiver Trent Sherfield) and a passer rating of 93.7.

One of the things that didn’t sit too well with observers was the number of hits and sacks Lance took. He was sacked four times while taking a couple of other hits throughout his playing time.

This is not so much an indictment towards Lance as it is the offensive line. Even though it was primarily backups in the game at this point, they’re still paid athletes who have a job to do which is to protect San Francisco’s investment.

Looking forward to the continued evolution of Lance, that journey will resume against the Chargers for the second preseason game of 2021.

As for the defensive side of the ball, I’m not going to be overly critical since the 49ers elected to sit most of their starters.

Instead, let’s focus on the players who suited up and left a favorable impression.

For instance, both rookie cornerbacks Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir played relatively well.  While the stat sheet might not do the pair justice, their presence in the secondary was a relief to most. They each had solid man-to-man coverage with Lenoir recording a pass breakup and interception, while Thomas seems poised to limit yards after the catch for opposing receivers.

Other notable mentions include defensive lineman Arden Key, linebacker Jonas Griffith and rookie safety Talanoa Hufanga. They all flashed their talents at various moments of the game, and I’m excited to see them flourish with the starters once their opportunity presents itself.

Perhaps Sunday’s game against the Chargers will reveal more.

Time and experience is the only thing separating these aforementioned athletes from greatness.

Once they hit their stride and find their footing, it’ll be a joy to observe them for years to come.

Next. 5 Niners who need a strong game vs. Chiefs to stay on roster. dark