3 takeaways from the 49ers first preseason game of 2023
Aug 14, 2023, 12:00 PM | Updated: 12:25 pm
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Just like that, the first 49ers preseason game of 2023 has come and gone.
San Francisco did not have a good start to the preseason, losing badly to the Las Vegas Raiders, 34-7. A game with a lot of hype around the QBs of the 49ers, turned into a beatdown by their former cross-town rivals. But then again, it’s only preseason.
With that being said, here are some of the takeaways from Sunday’s clash in Las Vegas.
1. Trey Lance is still a work in progress
When Kyle Shanahan declared Trey Lance the starter for the first preseason game of 2023, we expected to see improvement from the third-year quarterback. Instead, we saw a frightened player running for his life.
Lance & the 49ers struggled mightily against the Raiders, giving up four sacks in the first half. Two of those came on the first drive after Nick Zakelj and Matt Pryor allowed pressure on the QB. The disastrous start wasn’t all on the offensive line, as Lance looked panicked and out of sync. His throws were either behind or in front of the pass catchers, including a five-yard out route to tight end Ross Dwelley. To start the day, the 49ers went three & out on three straight drives.
“I mean, it doesn’t feel good to go three and out, especially to start the game. So, that was definitely frustrating, but I obviously put it on myself to continue to be better, make sure the guys around me are ready to go, I’m ready to go. It starts with me, so I put that on myself,” Lance said after the game.
The point is: Lance didn’t throw the ball great, and that’s a concern after a very encouraging training camp this far.
His few shining moments came on the team’s fourth drive, able to move the ball effectively. While it’s encouraging that he was able to work into the game, the former third-overall pick should be able to start quicker in contests. And then his touchdown pass of sheer luck.
Working a play-action pass, Lance waits a bit too long to fire a dart to wideout Chris Conley. The ball was tipped by Raiders cornerback Duke Shelley Jr., miraculously hitting it into the hands of Dwelley for the score. A play that goes down as a positive, had a whole lot of negative attached to it.
Lance almost threw his second pick of the day on his final drive, with the ball slipping out of the linebacker’s hands. After that, he did lead the 49ers down the field for a field goal try, one that Jake Moody hooks left though. Lance finished his day with 112 yards passing, one TD, and a 111 QB rating.
But as we all know, numbers don’t always paint the full picture, especially when Sam Darnold threw the best ball of the day on his first drive.
🏈 Trey Lance: 10 of 15, 112 yards, 1 TD, O INT, 111.0 rating, four sacks— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoNBCS) August 13, 2023
🏈 Sam Darnold: 5 of 8, 84 yards, 0 TD, O INT, 97.9 rating, no sacks
🏈 Brandon Allen: 5 of 8, 36 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 33.0 rating, no sacks
Stats do not tell the story. Plenty to discuss on #49ers Talk.
2. A Jake Moody problem?
After a very successful training camp saw the young kicker put them in from Alameda, Moody had some blues to start the NFL preseason.
After Lance & the offense got into range to close out the first half, the Michigan alum was called on to hit a 40-yarder in the middle of the park. He hooked it left, leaving the score 14-7 at the break.
Later, Moody was called upon to kick an even longer try in the third quarter, one from 58 yards. It’s a daunting distance for sure, but one that the rookie had been routinely making in Santa Clara. He kicked the football all wrong, sending it screeching to the right stands.
Safe to say, it was a bad day at the office for the rookie kicker.
“Second field goal, that one was tough,” Moody said postgame Sunday. “Felt confident in it. Fifty-eight yards, it’s a longer one, but I had all the confidence in the world that I could go out there and nail it and just kind of wash away the first one.”
The 49ers have additional kickers, in the form of Zane Gonzalez. So if the team wanted to go in a different diction, they could. But that seems unlikely, even with Moody’s struggles. San Francisco spent a third-round pick to get their kicker of the future, the front office isn’t going to give up on him after one preseason game, and neither is the team.
“I’m not worried about Jake at all,” long snapper Taybor Pepper added. “There’s timing things. The NFL is already a fast game, and then you add an operation that takes 1.3 seconds and you need to just sit in it, and experience it. There’s no substitution for that, no amount of practice reps will do that. A preseason game is going to help a lot.”
3. Ronnie Bell has a roster spot
If there was one positive from Sunday’s beatdown for the 49ers, it’s that Ronnie Bell should be on the 53-man roster.
The Michigan alum led the team with a team-high three catches for 58 yards. He was also prevalent in the return game, going out for punts and kickoffs in the first half. While those didn’t amount to much, his willingness to be physical plays right into Kyle Shanahan’s hands.
Advanced analytics have Ronnie Bell’s DAWG metric in the highest percentile. pic.twitter.com/Q2WKX6Xv3a— Jason Aponte (@JasonAponte2103) August 14, 2023
His best plays of the day came on a 15-yard jet sweep, running through Raider defenders for the first down. Then he caught a great ball from Darnold for a 37-yard go-route completion. Bell also had a drop in the fourth quarter that led to an interception, but his pros outweighed the cons Sunday.
“And I thought Ronnie did some really good things in the return game, had that good jet sweep, made some good [catches]. His best route was the one [Darnold] served up to him on the pick, so that was unfortunate. But those guys did show some good things,” Shanahan stated.
Seen as a longshot to make the roster initially, Ray-Ray McCloud’s injury gives Bell a bump on the depth chart, especially if he continues to perform in the preseason.