The San Francisco 49ers start Trey Lance in their preseason opener on Sunday amidst, arguably, the most intriguing quarterback battle in the NFL.
Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed in an interview with KNBR Lance would make his offensive debut against the Las Vegas Raiders. Brock Purdy will reportedly not play, while Sam Darnold, a former New York Jets player vying for a backup job, will play in the second half.
Lance has spent every off-season vying to become the starting quarterback for the Niners, but the biggest variable in that battle has more to do with Brock Purdy’s health than what Shanahan sees in camp, Where Lance was drawing strong reviews. Shanahan wasn’t shy about his praise for Purdy, though, and it would take a massive dip in form — READ: MORE Three choices in common practice – to change that.
So it’s possible that Lance started on Sunday for a variety of reasons. Niners can rest for Purdy as if he was already the initiator, or to protect his arm. Shanahan may be more curious about how the former third overall pick fared with better offense than Purdy, who started eight games last season between the regular season and playoffs before tearing up the Champions League. Niners may want to do everything they can to improve the value of Lance’s trade. Or maybe Lance is really on his way to getting started.
Whatever the reason, Lance will get a chance to remind everyone that he can still be a factor in future plans, whether that be on the Niners or some other team. It’s an unusual situation for a third overall pick, but that’s what happens when a third overall pick has started four games in three seasons.