3 Observations From 49ers Minicamp
The 49ers have officially wrapped up their minicamp after cancelling the final day of the first mandatory workouts of the year Wednesday, according to reports. Now we’ll have to wait for the end of July to see the Bay Area team back in action but until then, there’s plenty to talk about surrounding the team from their two-day camp with questions looming from a tumultuous offseason.
Let’s take a look at three things that stuck out to me from the Niners practice field this week.
1. The Development of Trey Lance
I’ve said this previously on this site but the development of second-year quarterback Trey Lance is vital to the success of the Red and Gold now that veteran Jimmy Garoppolo looks to be on the way out. So far, the North Dakota State product has shown flashes of his improvement at camp this week. The biggest takeaway occurred on Day 2, during 7 on 7s, to close out practice as reports indicate that Lance whipped not one, but TWO would-be touchdowns that hung in the air for close to 45 yards Wednesday. The first one to Ray-Ray McCloud down the left sideline, the other to former Philadelphia Eagle Jordan Matthews down the middle, splitting the defense like the Red Sea.
Lance has been hot since the start of OTAs, sporting a completion percentage over 74% while throwing for six TDs and only two INTs.
The young QB also has a few new faces guiding him this year as Lance has reached out to 49ers great Steve Young on numerous occasions this offseason, telling reporters that he had “100% confidence” in the young gun QB.
The organization has also brought in former Denver Broncos QB Brian Griese to help facilitate the growth of Lance as the quarterbacks coach. Despite the odd pairing, NFL Network’s Peter Schrager gave his stamp of approval Wednesday on Good Morning Football.
“Everything I’m hearing out of SF is that Trey Lance is making major strides not only as a player but as a leader in the building with Jimmy G not present,” Schrager said.
It stems beyond the strides Lance has made from his rookie season as most second-year QBs tend to grasp the playbook and speed of the NFL quicker in their sophomore seasons. But what hasn’t changed over the course of a year is his demeanor, one of the key reasons the Niners opted for the raw prospect over a more established QB like Mac Jones in the 2021 draft. Players and coaches alike have seen that work ethic and attitude in their young QB since the beginning, speaking about it over the course of the week.
“He carries himself extremely well, which is why he’s here, why everyone is so high on him. We all know his attributes as a quarterback. But I think the way he carries himself, the way he holds his head, the way nothing ever rattles him, that’s his key feature and I think that will carry him a long way,” left tackle Trent Williams told reporters.
There’s still a long way to go before predictions and rumors turn into reality, but based on the early consensus: This should be a good year for the 49ers with Lance under center.
2. Deebo At Practice But Not Really Practicing
The sight of offensive weapon Deebo Samuel at 49ers minicamp is one for sore eyes as the contract saga between him and the front office has lingered on for the entire offseason. After submitting an official trade request in April, many suspected the All-Pro wideout would hold out of all team-sanctioned events until he signed his new contract. But alas, this was not the case as Samuel appeared for his physical Monday and returned to the practice field on Tuesday.
Well not yet.
In light of ongoing contract talks, Samuel has returned to the faculty but didn’t necessarily participate in much of camp with video and images showing him hanging off to the side of practice as he observed his team go through drills. The most invigorating portion of the week for Deebo was playing catch with head coach Kyle Shanahan’s son, Carter, Wednesday.
Now this may be something or nothing at all, as reporters haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly why Deebo didn’t participate further in camp, only speculating at this time. Nevertheless, it’s a good sign that he is back in the building and showing support for his teammates from the sideline, given the state of the relationship between him and the 49ers brass over the last few months.
This will continue to be the story of the dead period between June and July for the 49ers as rumors of contract talks have swirled over the last few weeks between the two parties, hopefully getting a deal struck by the time training camp rolls around.
3. Big Shoes To Fill At Center
Former All-Pro center Alex Mack delivered a small blow to the 49ers faithful last week when he announced his retirement from the sport, leaving them without a clear No. 1 option heading into minicamp. The retirement doesn’t come as a surprise to many however as Mack had hinted at steeping away from the game due to wear-and-tear from 13 years on the offensive line.
“If we had won the Super Bowl, I think I would’ve been really quick to retire. It was, ‘Does my body have another year to give it another go?’ And I landed on, ‘No, it’s time, it’s time to walk away,’” Mack told Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated.
While Mack and the 49ers have known for some time, losing a former All-Pro lineman in the beginning of June usually spells disaster for a franchise. But luckily the Bay Area team seems to have a backup plan in place with veteran Jake Brendel as the new center for Lance and Co., giving his approval Wednesday after minicamp.
“I wanted to play with Alex, but I’m super excited for Jake. He’s 3 lockers down from me. We’re one of the first two in the building every morning & he’s one of the last guys to leave. Jake works super hard & his athletic ability is one thing that stands out,” Lance said.
Currently Brendel and Donovhan West are the only centers on the roster for the 49ers as speculation of a quality replacement for Mack have led to the potential signing of J.C. Tretter. But for now, Lance and Trent Williams seem pretty content with Brendel being the guy in camp.
The 49ers have officially entered the dog days of the offseason after closing out minicamp early. The next time you’ll see the Red and Gold suit up is for training camp, starting on July 29th.