After charting all 100 of 49ers’ quarterback (QB) Trey Lance’s preseason plays he participated in – – it has been revealed how to defeat him.
When he is their full-time QB, Lance is most comfortable throwing to the intermediate to deep levels of the field on 1st down.
Of his 3/4 deep shots, three of them came on 1st down. If a defense can successfully defend the intermediate to deep levels of the field on 1st down, there is a strong chance that defense will get San Francisco off the field quickly when Lance is in the game. Lance is most comfortable throwing to his right side of the field intermediate to deep (3/4 deep shots thrown to his right). His second favorite area of preference intermediate is in the middle of the field. Drift pass coverage to his right.
2nd and 3rd downs are most likely going to be short throws (if he throws) to the left, middle or right.
Lance tends to lose confidence as the downs progress. San Francisco’s offense is conservative throwing the ball on 2nd and especially 3rd down when Lance is the QB. Lance is least accurate and least effective on 3rd down.
Lance was a meager 7/23 (30%) converting 3rd downs this preseason.
2nd down tends to be San Francisco’s big down to hand the ball off to their running backs when Lance is at the helm. It is either that or it tends to be a short pass. Defensive play calls need to be heavily geared towards a scheme to take away the run and defend short passing routes. Suffocate the run. Bringing 8 into the box is a great idea.
3rd down is a big opportunity for defenses when Lance is in the game. Lance tends to throw short, but occasionally will dare to throw into the intermediate range if the distance calls for it. Lance does not do well mentally in 3rd down situations when it is do or die. He tends to become even more hesitant and mistake prone (fumble, turnover, taking a sack).
Lance is a liability on 3rd down. This is the exact reason why Shanahan invented and unveiled the “Trey Package,” in San Francisco’s third and final pre-season game against Las Vegas. The “Trey Package,” is when the 49ers sub in Lance and pull starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo out of the game, usually on 1st or 2nd down. The package is a cute distraction that is extremely easy to adjust to defensively. The “Trey Package,” is just as easy to adjust to as when an offense goes three-wide, and the defense responds accordingly by subbing in an extra defensive back and going into nickel coverage.
In this dazzling “Trey Package,” (I am being funny), Shanahan tries to keep Lance away from having to throw the ball into the intermediate route level of the field.
Lance tends to do one of two things in the “Trey package,” lined up in the gun – – he either hands off the ball to a running back (which he did 6/8 plays against LVR) 75% of the time or he throws short to his left, middle or right. Shanahan has learned to leave the big boy stuff, throwing the ball downfield, to Jimmy G. Defenses simply have to bring 8 down into the box when the 49ers’ sub Lance in.
Shanahan is watching the same game film I am watching. Therefore, Shanahan is making the necessary logical adjustments based on the facts I am illustrating. Shanahan is choosing to focus on Lance’s two most consistent strengths, which is handing the ball off and throwing short passes under 10 yards. This is the type of garbage Shanahan traded away three number one draft picks to get. For all intents and purposes, Shanahan could have just as easily taken a QB in the 7th round instead who could have come in and played this elementary role in his new offensive scheme.
Do not look for Lance to be much of a threat to run the ball himself either in the “Trey Package.” Most all the time, Lance is handing the ball off to a running back. Lance is not much of a running threat to begin with, nor was he in college, averaging just under 7 yards per carry on 192 career rushing attempts against glorified high school level competition. Lance is not at all elusive in the open field. We are not talking about the second coming of Michael Vick here.
If at any point in the future Lance is thrust into being the full-time QB – – San Francisco is screwed. Shanahan will not be able to keep Lance from having his lack of confidence exposed which causes his hesitation throwing. Shanahan will also not be able to hide his downfield inconsistency either or be able to keep Lance from self-destructing when the pressure of the down and distance increases. Scheme can only cover up so much. These are not “rookie issues,” these are deep psychological issues.
Jimmy G. is not going anywhere anytime soon, but God forbid if Garoppolo gets hurt again, it will not be pretty. NFL defenses will become increasingly aggressive daring Lance to throw downfield, they will blitz the hell out of him and they will stack the line of scrimmage against the run and see what he has for an answer.
Lance is nothing more than a glorified option QB, a poor man’s Donovan McNabb like I told the world prior to the draft. Lance is an athlete trying to be a franchise QB.
Lance’s 21/54 (39% completion percentage) preseason stat line further drives home all of these points. Lance handed the ball off 45 out of his 100 snaps. Out of his 54 passing attempts, 25 were short range. That means 70/100 (70%) of his plays were runs or short passes. Even more telling is the fact during the entire preseason, Lance was 3/18 (16%) at the intermediate route level of the field.
That is downright awful.
Take it from me, as a first-year scout with the Jets, I cracked Kyle Shanahan’s dad’s first 15-play scripting system prior to the 1998 AFC Championship Game. The “Trey Package,” is nothing more than a gimmick. It is pure hype. It is something Shanahan invented to take the heat off himself after 3/4 losing seasons and something to distract everyone from the fact he and team general manager John Lynch have mortgaged the 49ers’ future for a sure-fire bust.
Daniel Kelly is a former NFL scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He currently writes for Sports Illustrated Detroit Lions and he is a contributing evaluator for Draft Diamonds. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @danielkellybook and his Facebook page is WHATEVER IT TAKES NFL TALK.