Breaking down every Trey Lance dropback from preseason Week 1

Trey Lance is a controversial topic in NFL circles. How did he fare in his first preseason action as the starting quarterback for the 49ers?

There are few more hot-button topics surrounding the NFL. Trey Lance has been a lightning rod since Roger Goodell announced his name as the No. 3 overall pick to the San Francisco 49ers. Things haven’t changed since becoming the 49ers’ starter heading into Year 2. Training camp reports have not been kind to Lance, nitpicking at his throwing motion and completion percentage during practices.

But how did Lance fare in his first live preseason action of the season? He was without Elijah Mitchell, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk. Luckily, the Green Bay Packers starting defense didn’t make an appearance in Week 1, either, so it was a fair fight.

Trey Lance’s Week 1 performance

From a numbers perspective, Lance had a fantastic day at the office. He finished 4 of 5 for 92 yards and a touchdown. That was enough to garner a perfect passer rating. He also had one rush for seven yards on his first dropback of the game.

Play 1: The Scramble

This play is 21 STRONG RT Z SHORT (without the motion) H2 X BINGO Y CHASE.

It’s a seven-man protection play in Kyle Shanahan’s playbook. It was one of the plays highlighted in how the head coach could help put the training wheels on Lance early on. So it’s no surprise we saw it in live action. It’s a high-to-low read, except the fullback had to stay in on a blocking assignment in practice here.

Lance does an excellent job of feeling the pressure here and stepping up while keeping his eyes downfield. If this were NDSU, he would have immediately tucked it. Here, he even gets his shoulders back perpendicular with the line of scrimmage, which freezes the strongside linebacker in his zone responsibility.

There’s an argument that Lance could dump this off to the back, but the coverage covers up everything else. He had a nice crease and probably picks up more yards here than on a completed pass to the back.

Play 2: DOUBLE LT FK 19 KEEP RIGHT

The wide-zone rushing attack is a staple for Shanahan, and the play-action game off it will come alive with an athlete under center like Lance. It’s an area that Jimmy Garoppolo was not strong in.

As for this specific play, there’s nothing to write home about. The slot does a great job taking an acute angle inside to make it look like he’s blocking, which catches the slot defender napping.

It was a two-high look, but the weakside safety robs the crosser. The outside receiver gets the Cover 2 look from the cornerback, so he should sit this down around 15 yards had the ball not already been out to the open receiver. This was a nice gain on first down.

Play 3: The flat throw

Unfortunately, the cheat sheet doesn’t hold the answers to every question, so the specific play call here escapes us. Realistically, this play wasn’t going any further than it did. Still, we’d like to see this ball come down just a hair, seeing how he didn’t have to throw this away from a defender.

Missing a bit high isn’t surprising. It was Lance’s first live-action on television in months. There was almost surely an adrenaline rush during this first drive. As Ted Nguyen discussed in his Athletic piece, Lance’s throwing motion isn’t nearly the cause for concern some media members would like you to believe it is.

Play 4: 12 FLY to BUNCH RT JET F SCUBA

A near miss on a high throw. Was Lance amped up here, or was he leveraging the pass away from danger had the cornerback broken on the ball quicker?

The more significant issue here was the timing between Lance and Danny Gray. The quarterback here actually makes a safer throw than going chest high or low and away with it. However, the pass height means he needs to afford Gray a little more sideline to work with.

These throws will take time for Lance to consistently get rid of quickly. His time at NDSU didn’t prepare him for a more wide-open offense. It’s a slight miss, but the margins at the NFL level are so small they’re nearly invisible.

Play 5: The sack

There isn’t anything to report from the sack. The right tackle gets beat faster than most people can stand up from their chair and gets directly into the throwing hallway of Lance.

Could Lance have found an angle to release this pass? Maybe. But it would have been a dangerous decision, and sometimes a QB is better off taking the sack.

Play 6: The screen

This is a simple pitch and catch, but QBs don’t always make this throw well. Lance keeps it within the window where the back doesn’t need to adjust his lower half and lose whatever momentum he wants to carry next.

The throw is a bit outside of the chest, but it allowed the back to catch and get parallel to the line. From there, he was able to make the first defender miss and get downfield for positive yards.

Play 7: The slot fade

Ah, if it isn’t the second-most dangerous play in football behind Y-Leak. The slot fade is incredibly hard to defend, particularly with a middle-of-field-closed look.

Pair that with Gray’s elite speed, a free outside release, and a rumblin’, bumblin’, stumblin’ cornerback, and the result is a 76-yard touchdown pass. The throw was nice, but it was Lance’s demeanor in the pocket that stood out here.

The Packers brought five rushers against just five blockers. Maybe Lance didn’t feel the pressure coming from his blind side. Maybe he did and just didn’t care. The important part is that the idea of 5-on-5 didn’t speed his process up in the pocket whatsoever.

Only one solid conclusion from Week 1

This passing attack will not be similar to the Garoppolo era. Garoppolo was reliant on the intermediate middle-of-the-field concepts and did not attack downfield often.

That’ll change with Lance’s arm. Also, there will almost surely be more of a power element to the rushing attack, which brings in more designed QB runs, making an already dangerous rushing attack even scarier.

It might work wonders, or Lance might struggle early on. But it will be exciting to watch, and Lance’s first outing was a fine start.

Dalton Miller is the Lead NFL Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can read more of his work here and follow him @daltonbmiller on Twitter and Twitch.

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