The fans saw in the first quarter of the first 49ers preseason game what all the fuss has been about.
Rookie quarterback Trey Lance performed Saturday night exactly how he looked during the first two weeks of training camp.
On the first play of his second series, he showed his movement and throwing skills. He rolled left, then threw across the field to Trent Sherfield for an 80-yard touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs.
If that play was not worthy of a reaction (or overreaction), what is?
Let’s get going with the first installment of our 49ers Overreactions series for the 2021 season:
Overreaction? Yes, it’s an overreaction that this is an overreaction
Lance might not be the best option right now to help the 49ers win regular-season football games, but to say he is nowhere near ready is not the case, either.
He is getting closer all the time, and the first preseason game was a step in the right direction. The mistakes were even more important than his one “Wow!” play.
Coach Kyle Shanahan said there was good and bad. And, not surprisingly, Lance reverted back to his old technique -- and did not carry over into the game some of the mechanical nuances that the 49ers had him work on during the offseason.
“It was good to have him out there,” Shanahan said. “I can’t wait to watch it with him so we can get his eyes on the right spot and coach him up on everything.”
Jimmy Garoppolo remains as the 49ers’ starter, of course. Lance should continue to make large strides. At some point -- and it’s anybody’s guess when this will occur -- he will overtake Garoppolo to become the 49ers’ starter. After all, that’s why they traded up and selected him at No. 3 overall.
He is not ready to start, yet.
And that’s the key word: Yet.
The practices this week against the Los Angeles Chargers will be great experience for Lance. And it will be a great evaluating tool for the coaching staff.
Where is Lance lacking? And where does he need to focus his time and effort? The coaching staff will have some specific answers after this week.
The best strategy still appears to be the thought of slowly working him into the mix with a package of Trey Plays in every game. If he is successful, Shanahan can add to his plate to the point where he is successfully executing the entire offense.
The running element is something we all know he does well. There is absolutely no reason to feature any of those plays in the preseason games. But when the regular season arrives, watch out.
There is not a team in the NFL that would enter a game without any concerns if multiple starters on the offensive line were unavailable.
The 49ers set out in the offseason to bolster their offensive line with the re-signing of left tackle Trent Williams, the addition of veteran center Alex Mack, and the investment in draft picks Aaron Banks and Jaylon Moore.
The 49ers selected Banks in the second round of the draft, so he was expected to step into a starting role as a rookie. Teams do not draft guards in the second round to serve as backups.
But things have not gone smoothly. And it now seems unlikely Banks can unseat Daniel Brunskill at right guard. Banks had a rough debut, including a shoulder injury that is likely to bring an end to his first preseason.
The 49ers would be in a good spot if Banks had taken over that starting job and remained healthy. Then, Brunskill could be used as the top backup at any of the five positions on the offensive line.
Who are the team’s backups at this point? Those spots are not even close to being settled.
The only possible answers are already on the team. At this point in the season, it seems unlikely any legitimate backups will shake free before the start of the season.
Overreaction? Of course yes ... but ...
Rookie safety Talanoa Hufanga trained with Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu as he prepared for the draft. And while it is unfair to make any comparison between the two, let’s also give Hufanga some credit for being a legitimate challenger in the competition at strong safety.
The 49ers had two starting-caliber strong safeties. Now, they are trying to find just one. Jaquiski Tartt is out indefinitely as he tries to come back from a turf toe injury. Tarvarius Moore’s season is in doubt after sustaining a torn Achilles during the offseason program.
After the 49ers selected Hufanga in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, he said his goal as a rookie was to make the Pro Bowl on special teams. But, now, he has worked his way into the picture to be a starter. And if he wins the job, he won't be a core special-teams player.
“It was kind of neat because seeing him out there and watching him play live, I felt like there was a little more to him, even,” Shanahan said of Hufanga's debut.
As a rookie, he can be expected to make mistakes. But Hufanga appears to have what it takes to step in as a Week 1 starter and continue to grow and improve as his rookie season progresses.