Why Trey Lance will bring more air yards to the 49ers in 2022 & beyond

Liz Loza and Matt Harmon examine the rookie QB's first start since Week 5 in the 49ers 23-7 victory over the Texans.

Video Transcript

LIZ LOZA: The 49ers took care of the Texans. The headliner, obviously, after this matchup is the Trey Lance-- I don't want to say debut, but let's call it the Trey Lance show since he debuted earlier in the season. This effort, much more decisive. 16 of 23 through the air for 249, but he did he did manage a YPA of 10.8, two touchdowns, one interception, one sack, eight rushes for 31 ground yards.

You have a bold prediction about Trey Lance. You had a bold prediction about Trey Lance on "FFL." It's not as bold after this showing, but I do want to give you props for it because I don't think you'll be alone in it.

MATT HARMON: No, I think it'll actually be like a non-bold bold prediction next year that like, oh, everybody-- Trey Lance, top five quarterback type thing. You know, the funny part watching this game, though, it was his rushing that I was least jazzed about watching him.


MATT HARMON: And to be fair, Trey Lance-- there are still some rough moments, OK? There are still some moments where you're like, they traded three first-round picks for this guy? But you don't need to get caught up in the moment like that. But he's still a work in progress, clearly, which is fine. It's totally OK if he has the training wheels on. He spent almost zero time prepping to be a starting NFL quarterback, you know?

We got so excited about this rookie class, Liz, and I think justifiably so, especially when you look at what we're going to have to deal with this coming draft. But none of these guys were really groomed to be starters this year. It's just very different being a backup quarterback all offseason like Justin Fields or Trey Lance was, and then you got to get thrown out there.

They're prepping Andy Dalton and Jimmy Garoppolo. Whatever you think about that, that's what they're doing. The 49ers have prepped Jimmy Garoppolo to be their starter all year, like game plans, everything like that. Every single week, going through the process. So it makes sense if Trey Lance still doesn't look totally perfect.

But my point here, you mentioned the yards per attempt. Next Gen Stats had this, Trey Lance averaged the most yards per attempt, 11.5, and threw for the most yards on 10-plus air yard throws by any 49ers quarterback in a game over the last three seasons. That's the stat to me. I still think he actually-- from a rushing perspective, eight carries, 31 yards. There were some times when I'm like, again, he's a weird runner. I actually think the thing I'm still most excited about with Trey Lance is that he's going to bring some verticality to this offense. That happened today, and I think it could happen more and more the more he plays.

LIZ LOZA: Well, he gets the ball out hot, right? It feels like he's whipping it every time. His anticipation is still a little bit off. And I think we are clinging to the 14 touchdowns, rushing touchdowns, that we saw in 2019. And that's why when you see the matchup against Houston, you think, OK, well, it's going to be his wheels that gain most of the production.

But I do think that-- well, first of all, if Jimmy G can lead the league in YPA at a point this season, then we shouldn't be too surprised that in the same system Trey Lance is able to do something. I think the most-- the asterisk to that is that the Houston, Lovie Smith-led pass defense is not bad. I mean, look what they did to Justin Herbert last week. Justin Herbert only managed one passing score against them, and the Chargers fell to that team.

So I think it is noteworthy if we are looking at the overall long-term projection of Trey Lance. If he's not just this mobile threat with an arm we shrug our shoulders about, right? He's not Taysom Hill. He is more than that, and we saw the potentiality of that today. And I also think we all got stuck into a little bit of a trap of like, well, he was drafted third overall. Guys like that, if you're drafted that early, you just start. That's, quote, just the way it is. And, no, there's no way it is. After 2020, the year on a whole, we should not assume absolutes.

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