At some point sooner than later, Trey Lance will become the 49ers’ starting quarterback.
That day is not today. And it might not be in the near future. But to this point, head coach Kyle Shanahan has liked what he’s seen from both Lance and incumbent starter Jimmy Garoppolo in training camp.
“They’re competing their ass off. They’re doing a good job,” Shanahan said following the 49ers-Chargers joint practice on Thursday. “It’s not about one guy versus the other guy. it’s about how good can Trey be, how good can Jimmy be. I think both of them, when you go through camp, you go through games you go through practices — it’s up and down throughout the whole thing. So that’s why I don’t sit and [say] who’s ahead of the other, what’s going on after each practice. They both bring different elements to our team. Both of them, I believe, can play at a high level and I’m trying to see which one does that the best for us.”
The third overall pick in this year’s draft, Lance has taken limited reps with San Francisco’s first-team offense. Shanahan said he doesn’t need to see more from Lance with the starting O to make a decision on who should be the starter. But the head coach added Lance could see some more snaps with the first-team offense in Friday’s joint practice.
“If I do [put him in], it’ll be more trying to get him some reps against [Joey] Bosa and Derwin [James] and some of those other guys, too, because there’s definitely a difference,” Shanahan said.
That extra challenge will be key to seeing Lance’s progression. The young QB has some undeniable arm talent, as evidenced by his throws during Thursday’s practice. But he was also under duress for much of the day, playing behind San Francisco’s second offensive line.
Garoppolo started off the session hot, but then faltered in the later team periods, at one point throwing an interception to rookie corner Asante Samuel Jr. in a red zone drill.
As Shanahan said, both players can be up and down, so it’s probably unwise to draw any conclusions from one joint practice. Until Shanahan is convinced Lance will give the 49ers the best chance to win, it’ll be Garoppolo’s show on offense.