Trey Lance is the 49ers’ biggest question mark in the 2022 season. His ability to overcome his inexperience will determine how high the San Francisco ceiling is and it will not be easy to replace veteran Jimmy Garoppolo who led the club. in the NFC championship in just two seasons where he started the majority of 49ers games. There will undoubtedly be ups and downs for Lance with a few fights in things that were easy for an experienced veteran like Garoppolo. However, there is one very key area that Lance needs to improve immediately.
NFL Wire’s Doug Farrar has written a piece that analyzes the NFL’s worst generals against any kind of cover. Garoppolo’s name slowly appears on the track as the worst player in the league near the finish line. Via Farrar:
One of those constraints in 2021 was Garoppolo’s performance in the red zone – especially versus red zone coverage. There, he completed two of 10 passes for three yards, three yards of air, two touches, no interceptions, ANY / A 4.3 and a pass score of 79.2. These touch / cut numbers look pretty good, but when you look at all the gaps near the finish line, a clearer picture emerges.
Farrar went on to explain how Garoppolo could delay pulling the trigger on the red belt, leading to incomplete positions in the downs where a receiver was wide open earlier in the game.
This should be something that Lance can help with for many reasons.
His release is not as quick as that of Garoppolo, but it is a recognition. Garoppolo just does not see some wide open receivers and forces him to make harder shots. Lance could improve it by just looking at open players. Of course, as is the case with Lance, the exact delivery of football is the second step in the equation. The answers to both of these questions will not be answered until we see Lance on the pitch performing the attack as a key player.
Another wrinkle near the finish line will be Lance’s legs. His ability to extend games and either run for touchdowns or create open shots with the threat of his feet out of pocket will make his life a little easier in these confined spaces.
It is worth noting that while Garoppolo was struggling in the goal line, the 49ers’ attack was excellent in the red zone. He was No. 1 in the NFL in the red belt conversion rate last season. However, part of that was because of Lance. He checked in to help score some touchdowns near the finish line during his rookie campaign, including a TD to Trent Sherfield in his first professional throw.
There is a lot of climbing for Lance to call himself a successful NFL general, and there is even more climbing he needs to do before he can lead the team to an NFC championship game. However, if he can help the attack in the San Francisco red zone by adding improved play to the goal line, he can accumulate points at a rate we have not seen under Shanahan.