No Need to Worry About San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Trey Lance

Trey Lance

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance has not had a very good preseason. While the highlight plays are there, the first-round rookie has struggled on a per-play basis, holding on to the ball too long and often putting the ball in harms’ way. Lance hasn’t done enough to earn the Week 1 starting job, but that’s no reason to worry about his long-term outlook in San Francisco.

Trey Lance Will Be Fine Despite Slow Preseason Start

It’s Only the Preseason

Through the first two preseason games, Lance has completed just 13 of his 28 pass attempts for 230 yards (8.2 YPA), three touchdowns, one interception, and six sacks. While these numbers aren’t great by any stretch of the imagination, it gets worse when you factor in that most of Lance’s production in Week 2 came against the second-and third-string defense. In the first half of yesterday’s game, Lance completed just 5 of 10 pass attempts for 67 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.

Fortunately, these are just preseason games, and preseason games have little to no bearing on future quarterback success. According to a fantastic article by Conor McQuiston, there is basically no correlation between what a rookie does on the field in the preseason and what they’ll do in the regular season.

Cam Newton was (and still is) my player comparison for Trey Lance, and the former Carolina Panther had a similarly slow start back in 2011. During the preseason, Newton completed just 24 of his 57 pass attempts (42.1%) for 300 yards (5.26 YPA), one touchdown, and no interceptions. Despite the pedestrian numbers, Newton earned the starting gig right out of the gate, and it’s safe to say things worked out for him.

Lance probably won’t start in Week 1 (Jimmy Garoppolo is a lot better than Jimmy Clausen), but Newton’s NFL success shows that a slow preseason is not a kiss of death. Even if we didn’t have precedence for this, there would still be a reason to believe in Lance’s long-term output.

Trey Lance Always Needed Time

Trey Lance’s unique blend of arm talent and rushing prowess gave him the highest ceiling in this quarterback class, but he was always going to need some time to unlock his true potential. The rookie only played in one game last year due to COVID-19, meaning that he only has one year of experience against college competition. The jump from college to the NFL is difficult for any player, but it’s especially hard for someone this rusty with this little playing time.

Even going back to high school, Trey Lance simply hasn’t thrown the ball all that much. According to Max Preps, Lance attempted just 113 pass attempts throughout his high school career, with 104 of those coming during his senior season. This is all one long way of saying that Lance hasn’t played that much football in his life (relatively speaking), so a slow start is to be understood.

This lack of experience means that Lance was always going to need a little bit of time before he was ready to earn a full-time starting job. Lance’s best-case scenario always involved spending some time learning behind an established veteran before taking over in 2022 or the back half of 2021. The big plays are already there, and Jimmy Garoppolo can keep the ship afloat while Lance learns the nuances of the position.

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