Niners training camp 2022: Hitting the road in practice won’t slow Trey Lance’s roll, with Debo deal on horizon

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The Niners said there will be days like this. There will be days like that, Niners said.

Second-year quarterback and newly designated starter Trey Lance had a tough day at training camp in San Francisco on Friday morning, but no one here is hitting the panic button just yet.

“There’s always ups and downs. I’m more worried about how we respond,” Lance told me after practice. “I thought it was definitely a little sloppy on my part. But we’ll keep getting better. It’s only 3 days so we have a lot of work to do.”

Early in the team’s drills, Lance Tung appeared to throw a short pass to tight end George Kittle that was picked off by second-year safety Talanoa Hafunga. A few plays later, a deep ball to Ray-Ray McCloud hung in the clouds, and good coverage by Charvarius Ward helped him fall incomplete.

Later, another intended pass to Kittle fell incomplete when the tight end appeared to slip as he released the ball. Lance was on Kittle’s sideline pass with cornerback Emmanuel Mosley in coverage. And finally, Lance’s boot-and-stop throw to Brandon Awick arrived as a wounded duck flapping so much, Ward couldn’t quite figure out what he was supposed to stop.

Today’s question is one that will be repeated throughout camp: How many reps does Lance need against this offense? How good is this defense?

At this point, it’s hard to tell. The defense could easily be the best in the NFL. Nick Bosa can ruin any game at any time. Fred Warner appeared to get two TFLs on rushing attempts during team drills. The Niners have an excellent defensive backfield with depth to spare.

People I talk to here tell me that Lance had a great spring and summer and has taken more command of the offense and the offense. Deebo Samuel should be on the field soon with his new contract (more on that below), and the offensive line is going through some musical chairs right now.

If Lance Pads is struggling in practice before camp arrives, no one here is worried. Lance has had a chance to drive the car here, and I asked him why he thinks the organization has so much confidence in a young quarterback handling a playoff contender.

“I’m confident in myself but I think that’s a question for those guys,” Lance says. “They know that I’ve got their back and I know that they’ve got my back 100 percent. So I’m excited to start this year. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that I’m able to do everything I can. I’ll be ready for Week 1 and even preseason. I’ll be ready to go.”

Camp observations

There is a great sense of optimism that Samuel’s contract will be extended in the coming days. The prevailing thought has been that Samuel will wait for fellow WR DK Metcalf to sign his contract before signing with the Niners. Metcalf’s contract included a record signing bonus of $30 million, and now Samuel has a new mark. Samuels and his agent will want “wins” in this deal, whether it’s average annual value topping Tyreek Hill’s $30M AAV, or a signing bonus that eclipses Samuels, or records in the first three years of the deal. Have cash flow.

Kyle Shanahan likes this roster more than any other he’s had in his six years in San Francisco, but the interior of the offensive line is a glaring weakness. Alex Mack’s retirement wasn’t a surprise, but the team still needs Jake Brendel or Daniel Brunskill to win the job. Brunskill could also get the right guard gig, and San Fran had to move out right tackle Jaylon Moore early in camp as Mike McGlinchey returned from a quad injury. The Niners feel good about Aaron Banks at left guard, but he’s still only a second-year player.

San Francisco would love to trade Jimmy Garoppolo to a non-NFC West team and get a draft pick in return. I want to get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. Everyone here is talking and saying the right things as it relates to the former franchise QB, but there is a very real possibility that the Niners will have to waive Garoppolo before final roster cuts when his $26.95M cap hit. Right now there isn’t a team that would reasonably trade for Garoppolo (and his contract), but that could change as the quarterback competition shakes up around the league and/or key QBs get injured. Still, people I talk to around the league say if they need Garoppolo, they’ll just wait for the Niners to cut him and make a deal for him. It’s a bit of a gamble, sure, but it’s logical. Shanahan also reiterated Friday that the team will do what is in the organization’s best interest, and that makes reasonable sense to cut him and gain cap space.

I know I know. It’s the “best shape of my life” season at the start of every training camp in the NFL. I had been told to look for Javon Kinla at camp and how he had improved his body, and watching him walk out of the meeting room early Friday morning, the change was obvious. It looks like Kanala has turned some of his leanness into lean muscle. He’ll soon return to practice from a knee injury, and is looking to play a key role in Damico Ryan’s defense this year.

The 49ers have recently experienced a significant brain drain at various coaching positions. They lost former DC Robert Saleh to the Jets and former OC Mike McDaniel to the Dolphins, and Ryans has been touted as the next coordinator to land the head coaching job soon. John Lynch has assembled an impressive crew in the bay, but his group could be next. Former Niners exec Martin Mayhew is now the GM in Washington, and AGM Adam Peters and player personnel director Rin Carthen have earned GM interviews in recent years and will get their shots very soon.