Coach Kyle Shanahan’s advice to 49ers receivers is they better make the adjustment.
But rookie quarterback Trey Lance also can help everyone if he meets them halfway.
Lance possesses a strong arm, for sure. The ball comes out with a greater velocity than most of the team’s receivers have seen from their quarterbacks of the past.
It does not seem to be an issue during practices. But when the adrenaline is pumping, so does the speed of Lance’s passes.
“I think when you can throw it really hard, when you’re amped up and ready to go, some of those things are going to happen,” Shanahan said Sunday after the 49ers’ 15-10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers in an exhibition game. “You would love to make it easier and catch footballs, but also our guys better get used to it.
“He throws pretty hard. Some are tougher than others, but I don’t think that had to do with a couple (incomplete passes).”
Lance has thrown an NFL-high seven passes that have been dropped during this preseason, according to Pro Football Focus.
That number makes it sound as if Lance is the victim. But, to be fair, he shares in the responsibility. After all, the less time a receiver has to adjust to a pass, the more accurate the throw needs to be.
Lance’s arm strength and athleticism were among the reasons the 49ers felt comfortable selecting him with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. As impressive as Lance has looked since the beginning of training camp last month, Shanahan said his thinking has not changed much since he said he believed Jimmy Garoppolo is the front-runner to open the regular season as the starter.
Still, Shanahan has yet to make any formal announcement of which quarterback will open the regular season as the starter.
On Sunday, the 49ers’ first three drives opened with Garoppolo and Lance throwing inaccurate passes that still were catchable.
Garoppolo delivered a high throw to Brandon Aiyuk on a third-and-12 play. The ball deflected off Aiyuk’s hands and was intercepted.
Lance’s first drive ended when Deebo Samuel failed to come down with a high throw on a third-and-eight situation. The next drive came to an end when Lance made another inaccurate throw on a third-down play. Mohamed Sanu got his hands on it, and it was intercepted.
“I’m definitely not throwing the ball as hard as I can every throw,” Lance said. “For me, it’s just my mindset is throwing catchable passes. I know the receivers appreciate it, and their hands and fingers do as well.”
Afterward, Lance accepted responsibility for those plays.
“The one to Deebo, the one to Mo (Sanu), those are both on me for sure,” he said. “If I put it in a spot where they can’t drop it, then it makes it a lot easier on them, makes it a lot easier on me, and obviously they can catch and run.”
In the second quarter, Lance gave Richie James little chance to catch a short out pattern to the left side when he rifled a high throw past him as he was coming out of his break and looking back for the ball. It is not known whether PFF registered that play as one of Lance’s seven dropped passes.
Immediately after the game, Shanahan placed the blame on the final plays of the first two drives, led by Garoppolo and Lance, on the team’s top wide receivers, Aiyuk and Samuel.
“I was frustrated with not making those catches on third down,” Shanahan said. “For us to not make the play with that turnover and for them to get the ball. Trey came in, wanted to get him going a little bit on the first third down, but Deebo should have made that play, too.”
In all, Lance felt he experienced plenty of learning and growth during the two practices and one game against the Chargers.
“I think I come away from these games and these practices just being thankful for everything that I’ve learned this whole entire week,” Lance said.
“Especially in the situation that I’m in, learning as much as I can and being able to go back and watch the tape tonight and tomorrow with the coaching staff and with the quarterbacks in the room, I think that’s where I grow and where I learn the most.”