• Bret Rumbeck

Sacks Fourth Avenue: Breaking Down Trey Lance's Sacks From the 49ers First Preseason Game

Image Credit: 49ers


If ever Lancelot, that most noble knight, Were for one hour less noble than himself, Pray for him that he scape the doom of fire, And weep for her that drew him to his doom.

-Idylls of the King. 1859. Alfred Lord Tennyson.

The start of professional football is undoubtedly upon us.

San Francisco 49ers fans went from speculating about the draft, begging for updates on OTAs, and watching edited practice films to an actual game to discuss in what felt like nanoseconds.

Instead of wondering what rookie quarterback Trey Lace would look like in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense, we were given a few cubic centimeters of the possibilities, including an 80-yard touchdown strike.

Lance’s touchdown, along with a fantastic completion from his end zone, was enough to hit the bloodstream like a 28,000-horsepower locomotive.

Unfortunately, Lance’s debut was marred by four sacks given up by his offensive line. Below is a breakdown of each.

1st Quarter - 3rd and 8 at the SF 15 (7:15)

After quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo took the first series, Lance was given an opportunity to play behind three projected starting offensive linemen.

After a dropped pass by wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk and a two-yard run from rookie running back Trey Sermon, Lance was facing a third-and-7 from his own 16-yard line.

I shifted on the couch, wondering what Shanahan would draw up and if Lance would convert.

The play never had a chance. Kansas City defensive lineman Chris Jones put right guard Daniel Brunskill in a terrible position at the snap, and Brunskill never recovered.

There was Twitter chatter that Brunskill stepped on Sermon’s foot, which led to the sack, but that’s inaccurate.

Jones had Brunskill beat the entire play – he forced Brunskill’s arms up and away while driving Brunskill behind the line of scrimmage.

As Jones kept driving, he kept forcing Brunskill upright and his hands off his body. By the time Jones had locked onto Lance, Brunskill then stepped on Sermon’s foot. Jones dropped Lance for a seven-yard loss.

In all its wisdom, Pro Football Focus did not charge Brunskill with the sack.

2nd Quarter - 2nd and 7 at the KC 15 (13:41)

There’s an island that I live upon, somewhere in the vast, open waters of the Pacific Ocean. Depending on the day, the gate to my home reads: Offensive Tackles Shall Not Be Converted to Guards.

Some might think it a lonely existence, but I have my books and a library of heavy metal. I will die here, one day, and the last words across my cracked lips will be that tackles are not guards.

Case in point.

The 49ers continue to play second-year veteran Colton McKivitz at guard, despite playing tackle in college.

And the experiment continues to yield the same results. McKivitz is not a reliable guard.

Now, linebacker Omari Cobb earned credit for the sack, but this was such a bad rep for McKivitz that the scorekeeper should have split the sack.

McKivitz did not have body position on his opponent for the duration of the play, and as noted below, had all his weight on his left foot, exposing the A-gap for defensive tackle Khalen Saunders.

With Saunders in his face, Lance had nowhere to go and was dropped for another seven-yard loss.

2nd Quarter - 3rd and 10 at the SF 24 (1:10)

One of the many frustrating parts of the 49er reserve linemen was how Kansas City used speed rushes against them to cause disruption.

Speed will kill any lineman who does not have good footwork or good upper body technique.

Kansas City defensive end Tim Ward didn’t have to put any fancy move or use any muscle to drop Lance for another seven-yard loss.

No, Gentle Reader, he just ran by 49ers’ rookie tackle Jaylon Moore.

Moore, a fifth-round choice out of Western Michigan, probably has not seen anyone move that quickly in his career. Ward’s speed crossed up Moore, who looked like he was doing a karaoke warm-up, and took down Lance for another seven-yard loss.

2nd Quarter - 1st and 10 at the KC 48 (0:37)

There’s been unfair criticism about rookie Aaron Banks’ debut, including Pro Football Focus awarding him a 0.0 grade.

That grade means Banks did not win on a single snap, which is entirely inaccurate. Banks’ tape shows a variety of plays where he did his job effectively.

Now, on this play, Banks was welcomed into the NFL by second-year defensive tackle Tershawn Wharton.

Banks took a lateral step with his right foot at the snap instead of dropping it back at an angle. The lateral step over-extended his base, essentially giving him no way to move quickly or any power.

Banks tried to recover but pushed with his left foot. That forced him to move left and open the B-gap for Wharton. At that point, all Banks could do was give a desperate push and hope that Wharton would trip over the painted lines.

Unfortunately, Wharton kept his feet and blew right by Banks to sack Lance for an eight-yard loss.

Two of these sacks could easily be chalked up to veterans shaking off a little off-season rust, and the other two are fundamental rookie errors. It’s also the year’s first preseason game, so I am not putting a lot of stock in the mistakes.

However, I am again frustrated with Pro Football Focus’ inability to grade offensive linemen properly. Moore’s overall tape was not as good as Banks’, and veteran Tom Compton had a few questionable plays as well. Yet, both were graded far better than Banks was.

So, fingers crossed, the 49ers’ offensive line starts to tighten up against the Chargers this weekend.

All images courtesy of NFL.com.

All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless noted.


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