There was a somewhat new sight when the 49ers’ first-team offense took the field in a move-the-ball period of their joint practice with the Chargers. Rookie quarterback Trey Lance was under center, and it wasn’t just for one running play. He guided the offense for eight plays before that portion of practice was cut short according to reports from the Chargers’ facility.
Lance wasn’t limited to just throwing and handing off though. The team mixed in some designed runs, which we didn’t see during the preseason opener against the Chiefs.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan on Thursday hinted that Lance may start seeing more first-team reps, and Friday after practice on KNBR in San Francisco, he explained why the rookie got his first real starters reps in the joint session with the Chargers.
“I really wanted him to go against some of these players,” Shanahan said. “I mean, I wanted him to be in there with (Chargers DE Joey) Bosa rushing, and going against (Chargers DB) Derwin (James), and really their first team. And I plan on doing that randomly. And I wanted to make sure that I did it today to get him started. Especially going against a different team. We rotate our receivers in there so much. I mean, if you look at our twos and threes you’re still gonna see Kittle out there depending on the play. You’re gonna see Deebo, you’re gonna see Aiyuk. The only thing we really keep consistent with that is the quarterback and the O-line, so it doesn’t really matter that much who’s he’s with.
“But to me it does matter who he’s going against and having a chance to go against a different team today I wanted to make sure, at least an unscripted period where we gotta move the ball a little bit, that I gave it to him.”
Lance’s action with the starting unit isn’t likely an indicator that he’ll take over for Jimmy Garoppolo any time soon. Shanahan has said the plan is to play Lance in certain packages even if Garoppolo is the starter. That would mean reps against a starting defense in the preseason would be beneficial so that his first look at a first-team unit isn’t his first regular season action.
It’s intriguing though that Shanahan has come off his stance that Lance wouldn’t get any first-team reps until the coaching staff felt he’d earned them. It’s clear the rookie is progressing, which is a huge plus for San Francisco even if he doesn’t win the starting job by Week 1. Lance is a long-term investment, and his early development could pay big dividends in the future.