The 2021 NFL schedule makes the case as to why the San Francisco 49ers should start Trey Lance from the gate.
The San Francisco 49ers may not be in any rush to declare Trey Lance their starting quarterback in 2021, but the case to quickly promote him to that role ahead of Jimmy Garoppolo was boosted as the NFL schedule was announced on Wednesday.
San Francisco will travel to Detroit to take on the Lions in Week 1, before then facing the Eagles in Philadelphia in Week 2. While that start to the campaign presents the inconvenience of back-to-back games in the Eastern timezone, the 49ers could hardly ask for two more hospitable pass defenses to begin the season against.
The Lions ranked last in Football Outsiders weighted DVOA on defense. They were 32nd against the pass and 27th versus the run. Philadelphia was markedly better in terms of weighted DVOA, in which the Eagles finished the 2020 season 16th. However, they were extremely inefficient when it came to defending the pass, ranking 24th in DVOA.
After trading up to select Lance third overall to make him the quarterback of the future, the case to have the rookie start immediately is not a difficult one to make.
Why Trey Lance should start right away for the 49ers
Lance played in an offense similar to that of the 49ers at North Dakota State, a factor that should help compensate for his lack of experience, and is well-versed in operating under center, running play-action and the quarterback bootlegs that feature heavily in the Kyle Shanahan scheme.
With a dual-threat skill set that fits where the modern NFL is going, any growing pains Lance experiences as a thrower could be mitigated by the designed runs Shanahan can draw up for a truly devastating open-field runner.
And such growing pains appear less likely to be punished by two defenses that have enjoyed little success in slowing down opposing passing games in recent times.
Detroit displayed little proficiency for stopping anybody through the air or on the ground last season and, while Shanahan will not look past any opponent, the reality is that two rebuilding franchises represent close to ideal matchups in which to help a rookie quarterback acclimatize to the NFL and win in the process.
To make the most of Lance’s rookie contract, the Niners need to start him sooner rather than later. The seemingly friendly start to the 2021 schedule gives them an excellent opportunity to do that.