Trey Lance wasn't good in the 49ers' preseason opener against the Raiders, but things should be different this Saturday against the Broncos.
Lance went 10-of-15 in that game for 112 yards with a touchdown against zero interceptions, all for a passer rating of 111.0. But that's the box score, not the film or the eye test. That touchdown pass came off a deflection that should have been intercepted, while the quarterback also nearly tossed another pick later in the game.
Making things worse, Lance was sacked four times in the first half before giving way to fellow quarterback Sam Darnold. At least two of those sacks were solely on Lance for not getting the ball out soon enough.
Even when Lance pulled the trigger, he often passed up on better opportunities down the field, as this The QB School with J.T. O'Sullivan would showcase:
It's hard to make excuses for Lance even if he has so little practical experience and missed all but two starts last year because of a broken ankle.
And it doesn't take much searching to find all kinds of scathing reviews of Lance, suggesting he's going to be the Niners' next blockbuster bust.
However, there are signs that Lance could turn things around when Week 2 of the preseason rolls around and the visiting Denver Broncos hit up Levi's Stadium.
Why Trey Lance bounces back when 49ers host Broncos
Again, preseason narratives apply. Denver isn't likely to play its starters, and head coach Kyle Shanahan isn't likely going to play the bulk of San Francisco's first-team unit, too, which would mean Brock Purdy sits out again in favor of Lance and Darnold.
With Lance starting last Sunday's game, Shanahan already hinted at flip-flopping the two quarterbacks in the next exhibition bout, telling reporters, "We wanted Trey to get the majority of the first half so Sam could get the next week. So that’s what we’re planning on..."
Based on that, Lance should be facing weaker third- and fourth-string units from Denver in the second half, which should help matters a bit.
Yet that's not the key reason why Lance should improve upon what fans watched last weekend.
During that game, Shanahan called nine pass plays out of 10 to open up on offense, which probably had a pretty big influence on Lance's struggles and the 49ers going 3-and-out on their first three drives.
Sure, those reps have to help Lance in one way or another. But most young and inexperienced quarterbacks also need a quality run game to take the pressure off their shoulders.
Over that early stretch, the ground game was nonexistent.
Shanahan has a running back battle on his hands, too, behind All-Pro Christian McCaffrey. While it seems as if third-year pro Elijah Mitchell is penciled in as the No. 2 option, fellow rushers like Tyrion Davis-Price and Jordan Mason are also in the mix for that job, while Khalan Laborn and Jeremy McNichols
Balancing the offense, albeit in a preseason setting, should actually do Lance some good in Week 2 of the preseason. When Shanahan started calling more run plays against Vegas, Lance responded positively.
It's likely the same happens if there's a good run-pass balance when Denver comes to town to play the Niners on Saturday, Aug. 19 at 8:30 p.m. ET from Levi's Stadium.