One key is that Trey Lance can offer an immediate improvement over Jimmy Garoppolo

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Trey Lance is the 49ers’ biggest question mark for the 2022 season. His ability to overcome his inexperience will determine how high San Francisco’s cap is, and it won’t be easy to step in to replace veteran Jimmy Garoppolo. who led the club to the NFC Championship Game in the only two seasons he started a majority of 49ers games. There will no doubt be ups and downs for Lance with difficulty on things that were easy for an experienced veteran like Garoppolo. However, there is one very key area that Lance should offer immediate improvement.

NFL Wire’s Doug Farrar wrote an article breaking down the NFL’s worst quarterbacks against all types of coverage. Garoppolo’s name comes up late in the play as the league’s worst caller near the goal line. By Farrar:

One of those limitations in 2021 was Garoppolo’s performance in the red zone – especially against red zone coverage. There, he completed two of 10 passes for three yards, three overhead yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, a 4.3 ANY/A and a 79.2 passer rating. Those touchdown/interception numbers look pretty good, but when you look at all the incompleteness near the goal line, a clearer picture emerges.

Farrar went on to illustrate how Garoppolo can be late pulling the trigger in the red zone, leading to incompleteness on downs where a receiver was wide open earlier in the game.

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This should be something Lance can help with for a handful of reasons.

His release isn’t as quick as Garoppolo’s, but it’s a matter of recognition. Garoppolo just doesn’t see wide-open receivers and that forces him to throw harder. Lance could improve this by just seeing open players. Of course, as with all things Lance, delivering the football with precision is the second step in the equation. The answers to both of these questions won’t be answered until we see Lance on the field operating the offense as a full-time starter.

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Another wrinkle near the goal line will be Lance’s legs. His ability to extend plays and run for touchdowns or create open throws with the threat of his legs outside the pocket should make life a little easier for him in those tight spaces.

It should be noted that while Garoppolo struggled on the goal line, the 49ers offense was still excellent in the red zone. They were No. 1 in the NFL in red zone conversion rates last season. It was partly because of Lance. He checked in to help score a few touchdowns near the end zone during his rookie campaign, including a TD to Trent Sherfield on his first pitch as a pro.

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There’s a lot of climbing to do for Lance before he can qualify as a successful NFL quarterback, and there’s even more climbing to do before he can lead the team to an NFC championship game. However, if he can help San Francisco’s red zone offense by improving goal-line play, they could rack up points at a rate we haven’t seen under Shanahan.

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