49ers training camp: Jimmy Garoppolo is best option at QB right now, but Trey Lance has bright future ahead


SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Bring up Trey Lance here at 49ers training camp and you’re bound to hear that he’s 21 years old.

Not in a bad way, either. Head coach Kyle Shanahan admits Lance “acts a lot more wise” than he did at that age.

It’s more along the lines of Yeah, he’s good, but he’s young. At least that’s the way Trent Williams put it.

“Not taking anything away from Trey but Trey just turned 21. He just became old enough to buy a beer,” Williams laughs. “He has at least a 15-20 year career in front of him. I mean, there’s no point in rushing it. Of course we all want to see what he can do but we have a capable starter who can take us to the Big Dance and we all know that.”

The quarterback competition in the Bay everyone apparently wants to take place just simply isn’t. Jimmy Garoppolo is having a fantastic camp. He was the sharper of the two quarterbacks Thursday when I was watching. There’s no identifiable reason why he won’t be the Week 1 starter when the Niners face the Lions.

Perhaps the pre-draft QB talk is still fresh. Folks don’t want to believe Shanahan or John Lynch about Jimmy G when they enjoyed the useless Mac Jones smokescreen for months. The ole switcheroo is bound to happen, right?

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That’s what I thought the last two weeks, too. We’ve seen the tweets from local scribes detailing just how great Lance looks combined with Shanahan’s persistent downplaying of Lance’s obviously great play. It gave the appearance of sandbagging while also protecting Garoppolo’s feelings.

After spending a day here and talking with players and sources on and off the record, I feel confident that’s not the case. Lance still has plenty to learn, and Garoppolo is their best option at quarterback right now.

“He is (having a fantastic camp). It’s only my second camp with him so I don’t know how the rest of the camps went in his life, but he’s definitely, he’s on point,” says Williams, whose only real allegiance should be to the quarterback who gives him the best chance to compete for a Super Bowl. “He’s literally done everything. He’s got this offense going, whether it’s 2-minute, situational football. He’s making all the right decisions and all the right throws. He’s having an unbelievable camp.”

Both Garoppolo and Lance led their respective offenses to touchdowns during their 2-minute period. But Garoppolo was just — simply — better. And as much as one practice doesn’t put Jimmy G in the Super Bowl like one practice doesn’t have David Baker readying to knock on Trey Lance’s door for entry into the Hall of Fame, it was obvious who the starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers was on Thursday.

A team like Chicago may wind up having a (not so) difficult decision to make around Labor Day weekend. Mac Jones just planted his flag in the ground for Week 1 in New England’s exhibition Thursday night. And whatever you do, don’t believe Urban Meyer when he tries to manufacture a quarterback battle in Jacksonville.

Lance is the future, no doubt. But the future isn’t now.

If you’re interested in some player stock, might I interest you in Ross Dwelley?

After talking with All-Pro tight end George Kittle, I think you’d be foolish not to grab Dwelley.

The fourth-year tight end is coming off his best season 19 catches for 245 yards and a score. And he should be even better in 2021.

“Ross is doing fantastic. This is his best camp so far,” Kittle said. “He comes in every single day and performs at a high level. He’s had a great mindset so far this training camp. I think he’s been way more aggressive than he has in past years. He’s definitely taken strides forward in his game. I’m looking forward to seeing him play.

“I think he’s going to get a lot more opportunities this year because when he gets open he catches every ball that you throw to him. And he can do a lot in the run game, too. I’m all for two and three tight end sets and I got Charlie Woerner back there too. He’s angry in the run game and I love everything about that.”

Some football fans may have met Fred Warner’s five-year, $95 million deal with some surprise. He’s not a double-digit sack linebacker. He’s not boisterous. He’s an off-ball linebacker in an era where no one not named C.J. Mosley has broken the bank the last few years.

But Warner is one of the most instinctual linebackers in the game today, and you can rank him and Bobby Wagner in whichever order you prefer. One of the elite coverage backers in the game, I asked him if he’s going to focus on getting more turnovers.

Last year he had just one forced fumble and one sack. He has five forced fumbles and four sacks in his three-year career.

“That’s something I kind of took hold of going into my second year. Watching guys like Peanut Tillman around the league Peanut Punching, I tried to add that to my game,” Warner, a first-team All Pro last year, says. “And my second year I was probably doing it a little too much because it resulted in missed tackles. I’d make a big play here, but I’d miss five or six tackles. I found that balance last year of trying to go for the ball while being a secure tackler. So going into this year it’s more of the same, trying to find those opportunities while still being an aggressive tackler.”

Indeed, Warner had his fewest tackles (118) and most missed tackles (21, according to PFF) in 2019. He cut those missed tackles down to just 12 last season.





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