49ers vs. Broncos: Sam Darnold to separate from Trey Lance for QB2 role

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

Sam Darnold should see a lot of field time when the 49ers host the Broncos for Week 2 of the preseason, and he could potentially increase his lead over Trey Lance for the No. 2 quarterback job.

Believe it or not, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance could have had a significantly worse outing in Week 1 of the preseason than what he displayed in the 34-7 exhibition loss against the Las Vegas Raiders last Sunday.

Sure, the 10-of-15 line for 112 yards, a touchdown, no interceptions and a passer rating of 111.0 all look good. But his four sacks don't, and the fact two of his passes (including that touchdown score) should have been intercepted by Vegas' defense speak measures.

Meanwhile, after Lance exited at halftime, fellow quarterback Sam Darnold entered the game and looked far more comfortable under center, even connecting with rookie wide receiver Ronnie Bell on a 37-yard reception down the sideline.

That makes sense, though. Darnold has 55 regular-season starts under his belt since he was drafted third overall back in 2018.

Lance, the No. 3 overall pick from 2021, has just four such starts.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan recently revealed that his No. 1 quarterback, Brock Purdy, could potentially see a series or two when the Niners host the Denver Broncos for Week 2 of the preseason.

In the interest of flip-flopping the two candidates for the backup quarterback job, it'll almost assuredly be Darnold getting the bulk of reps in the first half, while Lance will be relegated to post-halftime work.

How Sam Darnold increases his lead over Trey Lance for 49ers backup QB job

Darnold's line last Sunday was 5-of-8 for 84 yards and a passer rating of 97.9. He also wasn't sacked and didn't have some awfully risky turnover-worthy plays like Lance did.

That'll appease Shanahan. A lot.

There has to be one common trait for the No. 2 quarterbacking job behind Purdy: consistency. While it's highly debatable that Darnold is better than Lance under center, there's little questioning the fact that Lance is the better athlete and arguably has a significantly higher ceiling than Darnold, too.

Lance, largely due to his overwhelming lack of experience, has been anything but consistent over his pro career. He looked gunshy against the Raiders, and San Francisco is no longer at a point where it can let the North Dakota State product "figure it out" in real live situations on the field.

No, Shanahan and the 49ers will want Darnold, provided he doesn't mess things up on his own.

That's how Darnold can truly separate himself from Lance in the QB2 competition. Darnold doesn't need to be flashy, show off massive athletic prowess or anything along those lines. No, he just needs to be consistent, avoid turnovers and make the right reads, particularly if they're basic offensive schemes and formations.

If Darnold succeeds on Saturday, the backup QB role could easily be his.

Read more from Niner Noise