• Travis Rapp

More than a Situation: The Case for Giving Lance More Reps

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The San Francisco 49ers sit at a respectable 2-1 after three weeks, and were 37 seconds from being 3-0 before losing to the Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay Packers. Even though their record leans to the win column, many 49ers fans are pulling their hair out while explaining the deficits the current team has, and according to them, that head coach Kyle Shanahan is creating.

The facts are pretty clear. The 49ers’ offense has had trouble moving the ball for large chunks of the each of their first three games. After an explosive first half in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions, Shanahan seemed to take his foot off of the pedal and attempted to coast to victory. In Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles, outside of two touchdown drives of over 90 yards, the offense could barely generate a first down. Against the Packers in Week 3, the offense had 72 total yards before their touchdown drive right before half – a TD that probably doesn’t happen without the big return by Trenton Cannon.

Even that drive stalled at the 5-yard line and then again at the 1-yard line, before Shanahan took a chance on fourth down and inserted backup quarterback Trey Lance. Lance ran it in on a designed QB run to the left, with left tackle Trent Williams tossing the closest defender halfway through the end zone. That play was the spark the team needed going into half, and lit the fire that starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo has needed all season.

Garoppolo led the team in the second half to a one-point lead, but was aided by big plays wide receiver Deebo Samuel, tight end George Kittle, and running back Trey Sermon as well as penalties on the Packers’ defense. For an offensive genius, Shanahan’s attack has been very middling this season. They currently rank eighteenth in passing yards and sixteenth in rushing yards. Although Garoppolo has shown a knack for winning games, his ability to lead a dynamic attack is definitely in question.

Enter Trey Lance. After moving up to the third draft pick to add Lance, Garoppolo’s obvious replacement, the entire fan base has been itching to see Shanahan’s shiny new addition. With a strong arm and the athleticism to improve the team’s rushing attack, it makes sense at this point for Lance to start receiving some snaps at QB. Although the rotating quarterback that we saw in the preseason has never happened in the NFL, there is some precedent in the league with using a second QB in specific instances. Jim Harbaugh did it with Colin Kaepernick taking some snaps away from Alex Smith. New Orleans head coach Sean Payton did it for several years with Taysom Hill and Drew Brees.

The combined talent of Lance and Garoppolo is probably greater than either of those duos. This week against the Seattle Seahawks would be a great opportunity to throw Lance into the mix more than Shanahan has over the first three weeks - if not to supplant Garoppolo, to at least boost a stagnant offense. This is the worst rushing attack we’ve seen Shanahan put together, and it isn’t the offensive line’s fault. Injuries, as 49er fans know, happen, and the amount of depth lost to injury at the running back position is ridiculous.

Aside from perhaps trading for the Colts’ Marlon Mack, sprinkling in some zone-option and QB keeper plays with Lance might be the only way to improve the rushing average at this point. If Shanahan lets Lance throw every now and then as well, it will help keep the defenses honest. Garoppolo, although not nearly as athletic as Lance, can run some of those plays as well. This will help not just in the Seattle game, but it will help later on in the season. Shanahan would force defensive coordinators to prepare for two game plans. Seattle might be the perfect team to put that option on tap. Maybe that was Shanahan’s plan all along: keep the dual-QB threat option under wraps until the more difficult part of their schedule starts.

Fans will have to wait and see, but inserting Lance, at least in the red zone, makes too much sense at this point for a slow stagnant attack that is barely producing wins.


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