April 14, 2024
Sam Darnold will be Brock Purdy's backup this season, thus putting Trey Lance's 49ers tenure in further jeopardy as the 2021 draft's No. 3 pick enters his third season.

SANTA CLARA — With Sam Darnold reportedly locking down the 49ers’ No. 2 quarterback job, the team is exploring options on what to do with Trey Lance, a league source said Wednesday.

A day earlier, coach Kyle Shanahan said he would consider rotating both Darnold and Lance as the backup to Brock Purdy, who has made a remarkable recovery from March elbow surgery to retain the starting role he flourished in last season.

Rather than retain Lance as the No. 3 quarterback, the 49ers appear willing to part with him after just four starts in two seasons, after they moved up to draft him No. 3 overall in 2021.

Lance was not on the field to begin Wednesday’s practice.

News of Darnold securing the No. 2 job was first reported by NFL Network, about an hour before practice. Friday marks the 49ers’ final preseason game, a 7 p.m. kickoff against the Los Angeles Chargers at Levi’s Stadium.

Darnold has 56 career starts over five seasons with the Jets and Panthers, with 61 touchdowns and 55 interceptions. Since signing with the 49ers in March, he has impressed during training camp and preseason with steady play as he has learned the Shanahan offense.

Brandon Allen has served as the No. 4 quarterback throughout camp but has not taken an 11-on-11 snap since the Aug. 13 preseason opener.

In recent days, two quarterback jobs were cleared up around the league, with the Washington Commanders and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers naming Sam Howell and Baker Mayfield as their season-opening starters. The Cincinnati Bengals are navigating their way through the preseason without Joe Burrow (calf). No other starting job appears vacant, so if Lance is acquired elsewhere, it presumably would be as a backup.

Lance conceivably could reunite with former 49ers coordinators who are now the head coaches with the Miami Dolphins (Mike McDaniel) and the Houston Texans (DeMeco Ryans), if they’re seeking an upgrade to back up their projected starters in Tua Tagovailoa and C.J. Stroud, respectively.

Lance, 23, served as the 49ers season-opening starter last year before sustaining a fractured ankle in the home opener, thrusting Jimmy Garoppolo and eventually Purdy into that job. Lance delivered a fourth-quarter comeback win in Saturday night’s 21-20 preseason victory over the Denver Broncos, but he struggled before that fantastic finish, not just in that game but in the preseason opener at Las Vegas.

After attempting just 318 passes at North Dakota State, Lance has thrown just 102 in regular-season action with the 49ers, resulting in 56 completions with five touchdowns and three interceptions. He sprained his knee in losing his career-opening start at Arizona on Oct. 10, 2021, then won his next start, in Week 16 over the Tennessee Titans amid the 49ers’ playoff push. In last season’s rainy opener, Lance and the 49ers fell at Chicago, then he got hurt the next week and required two procedures to repair an ankle that resulted in no further setbacks this offseason.

BANKS’ CRAMPS

Left guard Aaron Banks exited Tuesday’s practice because of cramps, after losing 14 pounds in Monday’s practice that was somewhat steamy and briefly rainy. “It’s really hard to replenish all that weight and not, the next day, cramp up in practice,” offensive coordinator Chris Foerster said.

Banks, who blossomed last year as a first-year starter, is seen by Foerster as performing better in games than practice, which is unusual for linemen. “He’s in great shape. His weight’s been consistent,” Foerster said. “Sometimes in practice he gets worn down and is not as clean, but in games, he’s always fresh and ready to go. I’m really happy with his performance this camp and preseason.”

SWING-TACKLE COMPETITION

When it comes to the 49ers’ offensive tackle spots, “great” competition exists as to who will back up All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams and right tackle Colton McKivitz, Mike McGlinchey’s replacement. The swing-tackle race is between: Jaylon Moore, Matt Pryor and Leroy Watson IV.

Three weeks ago, Moore sustained a bruised knee and that’s lingered to hinder him. Pryor has made strides in recent weeks in practice and with the conditioning of his 6-foot-7, 332-pound frame. Watson played tight end at the University of Texas-San Antonio,

“Don’t count Leroy Watson out,” Foerster said. “He’s a young, developing player and has not played a lot of offensive line. He’s got a steeper learning curve. He has really good talent and ability, but he’s a ways away.”

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ROGER CRAIG DENIED

Roger Craig, the 49ers’ dual-threat running back and an NFL pioneer, again got rejected by Pro Football Hall of Fame voters. He was among 12 senior candidates discussed Tuesday. The three maximum finalists for 2024: Linebacker Randy Gradishar Defensive tackle Steve McMichael Wide receiver Art Powell.

Craig is a three-time Super Bowl winner from his 49ers tenure (1983-90) who made four Pro Bowls and, in 1985, became the first player to produce 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving in a season, a feat matched since then by only Marshall Faulk (1999) and Christian McCaffrey (2019). Craig was a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist in 2010 and 2020 before entering the seniors-candidate pool.

Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Steve Young are the only 49ers’ offensive players from any of their five Super Bowl-winning teams to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The next Niner to make The Hall next year might be linebacker Patrick Willis, a two-time finalist who’ll be in his fifth year of eligibility. Semifinalists figure to be named in three months.

 

 

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