The San Francisco 49ers are a team familiar with injuries, including at quarterback. With that, in steps Trey Lance, due to an injury to Jimmy Garoppolo. After seeing limited game action early in the season, the 2021 3rd overall pick will make his first career start. And the team he will be facing? The red-hot, 4-0 Arizona Cardinals.
What We Have Seen From Trey Lance
As referenced, this is not the first time we have got to see Trey Lance this season. He has appeared in three of the four games that the 49ers have played this so far, including the entire second half of last week’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks. In that game, Lance displayed a mixed bag of good and bad. He showed his athletic ability escaping pressure in the pocket, willingness to throw on the run, and even threw a 76-yard TD to Deebo Samuel, who was left comically open on the play. On the other end, there were a number of passes that Lance missed on, both low and high. Lance ultimately went 9-18 for 157 yards and 2 TDs. He also added 41 yards through the ground.
One thing that we did not see a lot of were designed plays to get Lance out of the pocket. In contrast, a lot of Lance’s passes were straight dropbacks, likely due to the 49ers trailing much of the half. Considering Lance’s affinity for throwing on the run and throwing into tight windows, expect Shanahan to utilize RPOs, bootlegs, and allowing him to improvise a bit.
The Arizona Cardinals
What should not be lost is that the Arizona Cardinals are hotter than the Arizona desert this season. Firstly, they are coming off perhaps their biggest win in the last few years, a blowout victory over the LA Rams. Quarterback Kyler Murray has been the leader of the Cards’ hot start, as he is the NFL’s leader in completion percentage, completing over 76% of his passes coming into Sunday. In addition, he ranks second in QBR, fourth in yards and passer rating, and ranking in the top 10 in passing TDs. His performance has been impressive to the point of garnering MVP hype. The Cards also boast a balanced passing game. Six Cardinals receivers have at least 15 catches so far. The running game has also been a strength. The combination of Murray, Chase Edmonds, and James Conner ranks second in rushing TDs this year. They also rank in the top 10 in rushing yards.
Also, the defense is very tough on quarterbacks. Opposing QB only generate an 88.4 passer rating thus far, good for 8th in the league. Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph also likes to blitz. This unit also ranks in the top 10 in blitz percentage, with them blitzing 30% of the time.
There are a number of injuries to key players for both sides to keep an eye on.
For San Francisco, star tight end George Kittle was put on injured reserve due to his own calf injury. As a result, expect receiver Deebo Samuel to see plenty of targets. On defense, the 49ers ruled slot corner K’Waun Williams out with a calf injury. Linemen Javon Kinlaw and Samson Ebukam are questionable with knee and hamstring injuries, respectively.
Injuries to Arizona’s secondary have left their depth shallow. Starting CB Byron Murphy will be out after suffering a rib injury last week. Marco Wilson and Antonio Hamilton are listed questionable in this game as well. Another starter, this one on offense, is also questionable. After only practicing on a limited basis on Friday, Chase Edmonds will be questionable with a shoulder issue.
Trey Lance may be an exciting prospect, but this is a very tough matchup for him. There are fewer teams hotter than Arizona right now, and the 49ers are meeting them at their apex, and at home. With these two teams being led by two young, exciting dual threat QBs, there’s potential to be a very fun matchup in store. With San Francisco’s defense banged up, expect Kyler Murray to have another great performance on Sunday.
Prediction: 30-21, Arizona.