Trey Lance: How 49ers get rookie QB more snaps vs. Eagles

Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /

Rookie quarterback Trey Lance saw modest action in Week 1, but the 49ers could be wise to implement more snaps for him against the Eagles this weekend.

San Francisco 49ers rookie quarterback Trey Lance saw a total of four offensive snaps during the team’s Week 1 win over the Detroit Lions.

On the positive side of things, Lance’s one and only passing attempt resulted in a touchdown to wide receiver Trent Sherfield. So, for now, Lance has tossed a touchdown every time he’s passed the ball.

For the other three plays, Lance either operated on a designed run or faked a handoff on a read-option play, ultimately resulting in him getting just 2 total yards on three carries. And for some, head coach Kyle Shanahan’s attempt to inaugurate Lance into the offense slowly looked little more than what the New Orleans Saints have done with quarterback/running back/wide receiver Taysom Hill in recent years.

There was a thought San Francisco could sit the starter, Jimmy Garoppolo, and insert Lance once it had built up a big lead in the fourth quarter, which quickly evaporated after Detroit’s desperate comeback with less than two minutes to play.

It didn’t happen, though, which will only fuel the argument towards the 49ers needing to get Lance on the field more than just four snaps.

And actually use him as a quarterback. Not a read-option runner.

Now, Lance’s next test will be a Week 2 bout against the Philadelphia Eagles, whose defensive line is fresh off a mauling of the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1.

There are ways Shanahan can get Lance out there on the field more, especially if it’s in situations where he can work on being a quarterback.

49ers can check off scenarios with Trey Lance vs. Eagles

A 3rd-and-long play. Or perhaps a 2nd-and-short situation where the entire playbook should be open. Maybe a 4th-and-1 scenario where Lance simply practices a hard count. Perhaps a full offensive series.

Consider these different situations as evolutionary processes in Lance’s development.

Now, it’s understandable why Shanahan wants to bring Lance along slowly. The head coach even said so during a press conference after Week 1, specifically with regards to giving the quarterback only a modest number of snaps instead of none at all:

"I think getting a guy any playing time when he’s the number two quarterback helps his development more than getting no playing time."

Lance has regular-season playing time now. Aside from those questionable runs, he passed that test. Now it’s time to start checking off the boxes in other areas of the field.

Granted, the Niners are in a position where winning matters first, Lance’s development comes second. But the aforementioned scenarios, at least not individually, aren’t going to break any team’s chances. Particularly if San Francisco is able to get out to a comfortable lead by the fourth quarter.

49ers must put Trey Lance in as a fourth-quarter quarterback

Mind you, this only applies in a situation where the 49ers are up by at least two scores in the fourth quarter. A one-score game, such as the one that ultimately developed late in Week 1, could put pressure on Lance that’ll he’ll eventually have to face.

But it doesn’t have to be right now. Not yet.

A blowout, even if the Niners are on the wrong end of one, would be an exceptional time for Lance to come in and take some reps. Yet a two-score game would at least allow Lance to both work with and face off against first-team units on both squads.

Yes, even on basic handoff plays where San Francisco is trying to run out the clock. Even having the chance to motion offensive players, identify the defensive alignment and work on that always-necessary chemistry with a running back on a handoff will be vital to Lance’s maturation.

Of course, there could always be those game-deciding situations. Ones where Lance proves he’s en route to becoming one of the next generation of elite-level quarterbacks.

Maybe Shanahan gets bold there, too. But he doesn’t have to.

No, instead, Shanahan merely has to let Lance explore more of the playbook against a lower-end Eagles squad and hopefully in situations that won’t be as decisive or crucial with the game on the line.

Even those moments will be vital for Lance to develop.

Next. 4 Niners who shoulder bigger loads in wake of recent injuries. dark