Despite the San Francisco 49ers 16-19 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday, there was plenty to be happy about. There were a handful of 49ers rookies to watch put on a display for the fans, but some performed better than others.
Going into this week’s matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers, here are three 49ers rookies to scout during Sunday’s game.
Three San Francisco 49ers Rookies to Watch Against Chargers
Trey Lance – Quarterback
Starting out with the 49ers’ third overall pick, Trey Lance grabbed all the headlines after his first NFL preseason performance. Whilst his numbers may not look fantastic, they don’t show the whole picture.
Going 5-of-14 in passing attempts for 128 yards doesn’t look great at first especially considering 80 of those yards was on one play. However, on multiple occasions that Lance had the awareness needed to roll out of the pocket and make a play downfield.
Two glaring examples of this were the 80-yard touchdown to Trent Sherfield in the first quarter with just his second attempt of his NFL career and a 34-yard throw to Charlie Woerner from the 49ers’ own 1-yard line.
Depending on who you ask, Lance either played well enough to show potential or didn’t impress much. Rich Eisen, on The Rich Eisen Show, stated that Lance doesn’t show potential, he’s a major warning to the NFC West.
“He’ll get in there. And when he gets in there, and the light goes on, we’ll leave the light on for you… [Lance is] a much bigger, huger threat at the position than Garoppolo. Is he ready? Maybe not. You’ve got Garoppolo to sit there instead, under centre, and he apparently looks terrific in training camp, all the better.”
Looking ahead to this weekend’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Lance will have his work cut out for him. The Chargers’ defense seems to be turning a new leaf considering their appointment of former NFL cornerback Renaldo Hill as their new defensive coordinator.
With Hill comes a new defensive scheme which seems to benefit the Chargers a lot more than what they were used to playing with under Gus Bradley. Lance will have to find a way around it if he wants to notch his first win under his belt in a 49ers uniform.
Talanoa Hufanga – Safety
Someone who almost appeared unexplainably onto the scene last weekend was Talanoa Hufanga. The fifth-round pick safety out of USC looked extremely comfortable against a strong Chiefs offense. Four tackles, including one on a special teams kick-off return, meant a strong start for the 22-year-old who boldly proclaimed he’d make the Pro Bowl in his rookie season.
Hufanga hasn’t just impressed the fans and social media but head coach Kyle Shanahan also. When questioned about Hufanga’s play on Monday, Shanahan was quick to sing his praises to the rookie.
“It was fun to watch him out there. He’s another guy who plays with a lot of energy, and he’s done a decent job in practice. I wanted to see how he could carry that to the field, and I knew he’d be amped up and ready to go.
“It was neat because watching him play live, I felt like there was a little more to him even. Sometimes when that happens, it can make people bust their assignments and do worse. But I thought it helped him play better, and I thought it showed up on defense and special teams.”
Here’s Talanoa Hufanga’s tape. He flashed on both defense and special teams.
— Coach Yac 🗣 (@Coach_Yac) August 15, 2021
In a press conference at practice on Tuesday, Hufanga made it clear he didn’t want to get ahead of himself.
“I just want to make the 53-man roster and I just want to help the team. Any way I can do that, just helping the other guys out and that was a big part of my mindset coming into [preseason]… Going up against people like Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce right off the bat is just a blessing. You’ve almost got to pinch yourself and realize where you’re at, and what stadium you’re in.”
Look for him this weekend where he’ll look to back up those expectations now put on him from last week’s performance by locking up the Chargers wide receiver core that looked strong last week in their win against the Los Angeles Rams.
Deommodore Lenoir – Cornerback
Few players snatched their opportunities up last weekend better than Deommodore Lenoir. The second of three fifth-round picks for the 49ers in the 2021 Draft, Lenoir made his impact early on.
A first-quarter interception following a tipped Chad Henne pass meant Lenoir gave the 49ers a golden opportunity to take control of the game, putting them on the Chiefs’ 45-yard line. Eventually, the Niners would get a field goal from the possession putting them up 9-7.
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) August 15, 2021
“It happened so fast,” Lenoir remembered. “I just want to thank the defensive line for getting there and forcing the quarterback to make a bad decision.
“Everybody was cheering for me, I felt like I’d been there before. I had guys like Jason Verrett, K’waun Williams, the whole defense really. It felt like I’d been accepted into the brotherhood.”
In recent years, cornerback has been a weakness for the 49ers. A fresh face like Lenoir, who can be a playmaker in the backend is exactly what they need. Expect him, and the other 49ers rookies to watch out for to get many more reps Sunday. night.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images