Let the QB1 competition begin.
Tuesday marked the second day of offseason team activities for the 49ers and the first time media members got a look at the 2023 squad. After a tumultuous 2022 campaign when the franchise went through four quarterbacks en route to the NFC Championship, Trey Lance and Sam Darnold will be competing for reps until Brock Purdy joins the fray.
Lance suffered a season-ending ankle/foot injury in Week 2 last year but was a full participant in Tuesday’s session. John Dickinson of 95.7 The Game shared a video of Lance and Darnold getting reps.
Just two years ago, the 49ers spent a lot of draft capital to move up to select Lance. Now he finds himself in a battle with Darnold, a 25-year-old free agent who has struggled as an NFL player through his first five years.
Earlier this offseason, 49ers brass has said that Purdy has earned the opportunity to reclaim his QB1 status once he returns from his elbow injury. On Tuesday, coach Kyle Shanahan said the team is optimistic Purdy will be able to play Week 1, so Lance might be a backup regardless.
One thing’s for sure, Lance doesn’t sound like an entitled No. 3 overall pick.
“My opportunity is just to come in and compete and that’s all I wanted,” Lance said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Brock and no one should be able to take anything away from Brock. He did what he did last year and he deserves all the credit in the world for it.”
Likewise, Darnold is staying diplomatic about the fluid 49ers quarterback position battle.
“For me, it’s cliche, but I’m focusing just one day at a time,” Darnold said. “I think that’s the biggest thing for me. Whether they’re first-team reps or second-team reps, they’re reps. It’s just being able to be dialed in every single play and just compete.”
Lance remains an unknown commodity going into his third season. We’ve still just seen him play in eight games (four starts) since his limited college career at North Dakota State. Given his athleticism and high ceiling, other teams might be interested in Lance via trade, but the quarterback said he’s content in Santa Clara.
“I love it here,” Lance said. “I love the coaching staff, I love working with (QB coach Brian) Griese, and (assistant QB coach) Klay (Kubiak) and (offensive passing game specialist) Klint (Kubiak) as well. Love the quarterback room, love the guys in the locker room. No doubt, for me, this is absolutely where I wanna be.”
The 49ers and Lance have been working on improving his throwing mechanics, as he had to relearn his throwing grip in 2021, after a finger injury during his rookie preseason, and then again in 2022. Shanahan said Lance is progressing well through the early stages of OTAs.
“I think he spent most of his time (last year) trying to work on his grip and things like that, trying to get it back,” Shanahan said. “He was just late to working on other things. This year, he went into it knowing exactly what he had to work on, football-wise, and I think that’s why he’s ahead of last year.”
Shanahan is hesitant to label this the strongest QB room he’s had since coaching the 49ers, but he’s confident in his options heading into this summer and fall.
“I don’t want to compare it to other years, but we got two guys who are talented enough to be taken in the Top 5 of the draft, and we have another guy who played like it last year,” Shanahan said. “I like the three guys we got.”