How Lance benefits from playing opposing QBs on 49ers' scout team


Behind the scenes, Trey Lance has put in the work that could prepare him to make his second NFL career start.

Since making his first career start against the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 10, the 49ers' rookie quarterback has continued to develop, impressing his teammates and coach Kyle Shanahan with his growth.

Some of that growth has been the result of his scout-team reps. Each week, as San Francisco prepares to face a new opponent, Lance is tasked with emulating the opposing team's quarterback in practice.

Since they've faced many different styles of quarterbacks this season, the 49ers have relied on Lance to best replicate the play of both pocket-passers and mobile signal-callers. Mirroring opposing players such as Kirk Cousins, Justin Fields, Matthew Stafford, Ryan Tannehill and Joe Burrow has helped the rookie further diversify his own skill set.

“I don't know if any are more valuable," Lance told reporters Friday. "Because I think the way I look at it is whether I'm playing as [Bears QB] Justin Fields when we played Chicago, obviously he can move. Then I went to play [Minnesota Vikings QB] Kirk [Cousins]. I think I gained a lot from both of those.

"Obviously, our D-line is really good, so I appreciate it when I can play kind of how I play and be off-schedule. But when I'm emulating, for the defense, a quarterback that doesn't move necessarily a lot and doesn't play off-schedule, I think there's things that I gain from that for sure. I get used to making different throws that I don't necessarily see myself making. But at the same time, it's good to get those reps.”


It's no secret what Lance can do with his legs, rushing for 1,100 yards on 169 carries in 2019, his only full season as North Dakota State's starting quarterback. Even with the 49ers this season, Lance has more rushing attempts (30) than pass completions (25). 

RELATED: Lance feels better prepared for likely start vs. Texans

Lance isn't playing as himself on the 49ers' scout team, which forces him to stay in the pocket and pretend as if he were, for example, Cousins or Stafford. This helps Lance further develop as a passer, an area where he was considered to be rather raw as a prospect.

If Lance ends up starting Sunday against the Houston Texans in place of the injured Jimmy Garoppolo, it'll be interesting to see just how much the 21-year-old has progressed as a passer in recent weeks. 

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