Trey Lance’s performance vs. Texans a preview of what to expect next season

From an ill-advised throw to All-Pro tight end George Kittle on an interception to the downfield rocket to star receiver Deebo Samuel on a 45-yard touchdown, Trey Lance’s second career NFL start had it all.

Lance was wobbly in the first half, confident in the second and offered his coach, his teammates and 49ers fans a preview of what to expect next year throughout a 23-7 win over the Houston Texans.

“When he’s out there, you know we’ve got a guy who guys can follow and now it’s up to Trey and us to keep working with him and pushing him each week here,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said.

Regardless of whether or not the 49ers and Shanahan turn back to injured starter Jimmy Garoppolo for next week’s matchup against the Los Angeles Rams, this much is clear: The future belongs to Lance and his upside is far greater than what Garoppolo has offered the franchise.

In the midst of a winning performance that featured plenty of highs and lows, Lance showed glimpses of what the 49ers can expect come the start of next season when he officially becomes the face of their operation.

The steady improvement Lance displayed against Houston represented important progress for a raw talent who only started one game last year at North Dakota State while also serving as a reminder that the 2022 season will likely be filled with similar performances. In Lance, the 49ers have a quarterback with a stronger arm, more athleticism and far more mobility, but also a signal-caller who hasn’t played much high-level football and hasn’t received the same level of trust from a head coach and play-caller in Shanahan who will be required to make several adjustments of his own next year.

A 49ers team that still has visions of securing a postseason berth this year has plenty of more pressing items on its agenda before turning over the keys to Lance, but on Sunday, the rookie had many moments that provided a window into the future.

In the first quarter, Lance was unable to convert a third down and two attempt on a designed quarterback keeper off the left side of the offensive line. Lance likely would have netted a first down had he planted his feet in the ground and sprinted forward, but by angling toward the sideline, he gave a pair of Texans defenders time to wrestle him down after gaining just a yard.

After taking a sack on the 49ers’ next series, Lance opened the subsequent drive with a play-action attempt directed toward Kittle down the near sideline. Lance should have seen Samuel streaking open behind the defense at the top of the field, but instead threw a pass short of Kittle that turned into an easy interception for cornerback Desmond King.

“It was Cover 2, so not necessarily where I’m told to go with the ball, but if I make a better throw, I think everyone is happy in that situation,” Lance explained. “I just left it short.”

Following a three-and-out that left 49ers fans vocally upset with the offense’s struggles inside of two minutes to play, San Francisco’s defense gave Lance and Co. one more chance to get on the board before halftime.

Despite making plenty of early miscues, the rookie quarterback delivered.

Lance completed three passes of at least 10 yards on the final drive of the first half including a 17-yard slant to Samuel and a 27-yard pass down the sideline to Brandon Aiyuk to set kicker Robbie Gould up for a field goal as time expired.

With their first sense of rhythm, Lance and the 49ers’ offense began to roll.

“The two-minute drive to end it and get a field goal definitely gave us some momentum,” Kittle said. “Got a couple of good passes there and he just felt it after that.”

The 49ers scored on four of their six second half drives including all three in the fourth quarter as Lance appeared far more comfortable while Shanahan seemed more willing to expand the playbook. The early struggles and late success made Sunday feel a bit like a roller coaster ride, and given Lance’s inexperience, it’s likely only the beginning for a quarterback with plenty of room left for development.

Over time, Shanahan will need to trust Lance to execute an expanded version of the playbook, Lance will need to develop better situational awareness and a quicker ability to process the field from the pocket and the 49ers will need to be patient as a young passer who oozes potential learns on the job.

That last part, of course, is critical for the future for the franchise and will be a weekly storyline next season.

Lance has immense physical talent and the arm strength to lead a dynamic NFL offense, but must make steady improvements on a consistent basis to live up to his potential and position the 49ers for long-term success.

© 2022 KFMF-FM. Internet Development by Frankly Media.