The San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers, 28-21, in Friday night’s preseason contest, but the win isn’t the story. The story is a QB1 with promise and rookies doing what they were drafted to do. Let’s take a look.
Trey and Gray
It was all the San Francisco 49ers could have hoped for out of quarterback Trey Lance. Yes, it’s the preseason. Yes, he played only two series, but each gave a glimpse of what he can do, with the second one capped by a 76-yard TD pass to speedy rookie Danny Gray.
“He seemed solid,” said head coach Kyle Shanahan. “The first play he didn’t have one, made a good scramble. It was nice to come down with that third down play to Danny. So he did some good things. It was good first game. Wish we kept him out there more, but have to get him out.”
The touchdown to Gray was thrown deep and thrown perfectly. Lance was asked by a reporter to walk the media through the play.
“Throw it to the fast guy,” Lance said. Good plan.
The fast guy and the guy who knows what he can do.
“With my speed and what I know I can do with my confidence, I feel like nobody could touch me,” Gray said.
Gray’s speed has been apparent throughout training camp, so when he outran Green Bay Packers safety Dallin Leavitt to the end zone, it was not a surprise.
“When he caught it, I kind of put my hands up: Touchdown,” said wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud. “I knew he wasn’t going to catch him. I’ve been watching Danny run every day.”
Lance played 11 snaps. He was 4-of-5 for 92 yards and the touchdown. On the first series, Lance took off for a 7-yard scramble that ended with a slide, and apparently practice doesn’t always make perfect.
“I’ve thought about practicing [sliding], you know, kind of picturing it in my head,” Lance said after the game. “I was sitting in my hotel room actually this morning kind of like telling guys about it…I’m pretty sure I could hear the whole entire sideline yelling at me to get down. Obviously, I’m in a little bit of a different position now, just trying to take care of myself. I know that me not being available puts our team at a deficit.”
A sentiment shared by Kyle Shanahan, who wants Lance to get experience but knows the team needs him healthy.
“…[T]hat’s really my only priority and that’s why I’d love to play him the whole game if you’re guaranteed not to get hurt,” Shanahan said. “Because Trey, the more reps he can get, all it’ll do is help, whether it’s good or bad that goes out there.”
There’s a competition for the 49ers starting nickel position, and rookie Samuel Womack has been making a solid case to take it from veteran Darqueze Dennard. The case got stronger Friday night.
With five minutes left in the fourth quarter, Packers’ QB Jordan Love threw what should have been – key word: should – an easy first down pass to Amari Rodgers. Except Womack swooped in and took the ball instead for his second interception of the night.
“That’s a route that I cover probably every day in practice,” Womack said after the same. “That play was just like doing another practice play. I’ve just been getting better at that play and then it was game time and I took advantage of it.”
Womack’s first interception was one he had to fight for, as he literally wrestled the ball away from Romeo Doubs. It was initially called an incomplete pass, but San Francisco challenged and Womack was credited with the pick.
“Our defensive coaches, they for sure preach fighting for the ball, fighting to the end, fighting until the ref makes the call, and I just fought for the ball, just took the coaching to the game, and just fought for it,” Womack said. “And then I ended up taking it.”
Womack’s head coach is encouraged by what he saw.
“I’d like to watch the tape [but] I know when you get two picks that’s a big deal,” Shanahan said. “So it was a good job covering the guy and making both of those plays. I know the one on third down with the review and I forget when the other one was, but I wish we could have capitalized on offense after it. But you come up with those picks, that’s a hell of a start. And we’ll see what he did on the other 40 plays.”
- Second-round pick Drake Jackson left the game in the second quarter with what the 49ers believe is a shoulder stinger, though Shanahan said the defensive end is still being evaluated.
- CB Dontae Johnson left the game in the fourth quarter with a rib injury.