It was not a banner day for the 49ers’ new starting quarterback.
Trey Lance had a fairly rough outing on Friday, the third day of training camp, as he was intercepted by Talanoa Hufanga and had a few ugly overthrows, a couple of which were interceptable.
These days will happen. You may remember Jimmy Garoppolo’s five-INT practice back in 2019, a season that ended with 49ers in the Super Bowl. It’s ill-advised to put too much stock into any one practice.
It’s a matter of how often bad performances and habits show up. With Lance, you expect some mistakes. At 22, he is younger than every quarterback selected in the 2022 NFL Draft except for the Washington Commanders’ Sam Howell.
Lance’s talent is glaring, it’s just a question of consistency.
This was one of the days when the anxieties of having a young quarterback will loom a little bit larger than on the days he wows you.
He went 3-of-10 with one interception in the practice.
His one interception came from a ball high and behind George Kittle, who was not looking for it. Hufanga picked it off easily, a day after Lance had been picked by Jimmie Ward on a ball well behind Brandon Aiyuk.
There were at least two other rough, interceptable passes. There was a wobbly, near interception in no-man’s land on the far left sideline that Charvarius Ward nearly secured, and another ball well over Aiyuk.
He was let down on a couple occasions, though, with Aiyuk bobbling, then dropping a fairly routine target over the middle. Kittle slipped and fell on one of his targets.
It wasn’t a horrifying demonstration, but it was more bad than good.
He ran with the ball on at least a couple of plays, with Fred Warner making a would-be backfield stop on one of them and letting the entire offense hear it.
Warner was a menace on Friday, starting the day with back-to-back stops in the backfield on run plays. He’s probably going to hit someone a bit too hard on the first day of padded practice.
The defense looks, at this way-too-early juncture, without any glaring flaws. Nickel corner is still a major question, but it has not been an overwhelmingly concern this early. Hufanga has been solid at strong safety in these first few days.
There are more questions to answer on the other side of the ball.
While Trent Williams returned to the field on Friday for the first time, he was not involved in team drills, nor was Mike McGlinchey. McGlinchey and Javon Kinlaw are slated to participate to team drills for the first time on Saturday. Those two and Bosa all got days off on Friday.
So it was a line of Jaylon Moore-Aaron Banks-Daniel Brunskill-Spencer Burford-Colton McKivitz.
That group isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire, though Banks, at least, has not made many plays of note, which is a generally positive sign. Offense line, especially the interior, is the most significant concern for this team. There have been some iffy snaps from both Brunskill and Jake Brendel.
We’ll know much more when pads come on next week, but the worries about the group have not been eased. Nick Zakelj, in particular, had a pretty brutal day at right guard.
Robert Nkemdiche beat him resoundingly on one rep in 11-on-11s for a would-be sack, as did Kerry Hyder Jr. Drake Jackson had a couple of near sacks and significant pressures, too.
It’s a ridiculous defensive line rotation. Nick Bosa called it an “extremely deep” group, saying that while 2019 had the elite talent of Dee Ford within its ranks, this might be a more well-rounded unit.
“The depth of starting-caliber players is something I haven’t seen,” Bosa said.
Charvarius Ward, who, along with Emmanuel Moseley, has been a major problem for every 49ers receiver, concurred, saying there are “10 or 12 starters” on that line.
Ward’s elevated the defensive backfield to a seriously impressive level.
Given the prolific performance of the defense, the lack of both starting tackles and Deebo Samuel, and this still being a non-padded portion of camp, there is more working against Lance than for him.
Still, there were some objectively poor throws on Friday. He’ll need to nip the trend of throwing high and behind receivers over the middle in the bud. His wobbler into no-man’s land was a head-scratcher and his touch on short throws is still iffy.
But as long as Lance’s process continues to improve, he’s aware of what he needs to correct and active in addressing it, those should remain normal parts of development and not anxiety-inducing concerns.