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San Francisco 49ers have ‘degree of uncertainty’ with QB Trey Lance, expect growing pains in 2022

Matt Johnson

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance will enter the 2022 NFL season with many fans placing massive expectations on his shoulders. While he is the new face of the franchise, though, it appears the organization itself is being realistic with what will happen.

Kyle Shanahan announced on July 26 that Lance is the starting quarterback, replacing Jimmy Garoppolo even with the veteran still on the roster. San Francisco’s head coach also shot down speculation that Lance is dealing with any ‘arm fatigue’ issues this summer.

Related: Trey Lance generating early buzz in training camp

The reports out of 49ers’ training camp thus far are largely positive, with the second-year quarterback earning praise from teammates and reporters. It’s fueled even more buzz regarding Lance’s potential and a belief that he could make this the team to beat in the NFC.

Between the positive reports and the highlights from practices showing off Lance’s arm strength and athleticism, the hype is building faster. However, it appears the feeling is a bit different inside the organization.

Related: Brandon Aiyuk calls Trey Lance a ‘special quarterback’

According to Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus, the 49ers are anticipating some real growing pains from Lance that will be displayed in his lack of consistency from game to game. No one responsible for scouting and coaching him believes talent is the issue, there is just a shared understanding that it might not translate to high-end play right out of the gate.

“The 49ers believe Lance can be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but they’re entering this season with a degree of uncertainty about how he’ll play.”

Doug Kyed on how San Francisco 49ers feel about QB Trey Lance (via Pro Football Focus)

Related: NFL predictions 2022

Why the 49ers have the right approach with Trey Lance

NFL: San Francisco 49ers Training Camp
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

A historic 2019 season at North Dakota State skyrocketed Lance’s value and is rightfully pointed to as evidence of his potential. During that breakout campaign, he racked up 2,786 passing yards, 1,100 rushing yards, 42 total touchdowns and never threw an interception on 287 attempts.

The problem is that was also the last time Lance played significant snaps in a meaningful game. North Dakota State canceled its 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, playing in a lone exhibition game. Upon entering the NFL, Lance made one start and barely saw the field after that.

  • Trey Lance stats (2021): 57.7% completion rate, 603 passing yards, 5-2 TD-INT ratio

During the limited snaps he played in 2021, Lance showed both his physical talent and the level of indecisiveness and poor execution. It’s precisely what everyone should have expected from a quarterback who went from starring in the FCS in 2019 to playing in NFL games in 2021.

There are still things Shanahan and the coaching staff must address, which will put some restraints on the passing attack. It also means San Francisco’s offense might not be as efficient this year and turnovers could be a bigger problem. With the offensive line also a bigger problem than in previous issues, Lance’s indecisiveness and some bad reads will occur more often.

The sky is certainly the limit for Lance’s ceiling and he couldn’t have found himself in a better situation thanks to the coaches and skill players around him. Ultimately, fans will just need to take the bad that comes with the good because it will help him grow as a starting quarterback.

If there are any lingering doubts regarding San Francisco’s long-term beliefs in Lance, you could bet Garoppolo wouldn’t be shopped around the league if that were the case.