Kittle lauds Lance, identifies 49ers' edge in NFC West


George Kittle got just a few snaps with Trey Lance at quarterback in the 49ers' win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday. The star tight end was asked Tuesday what he believes makes Lance capable of molding into a franchise quarterback in the NFL, and pointed out a few traits the rookie has demonstrated so far.

"Just his commitment to getting better every single day," Kittle said on ESPN's "Keyshawn, JWill and Max show" (h/t 49ers Web Zone). "He doesn't make the same mistakes twice. He's definitely a rookie, and you see some of those things. But he progresses, and that's what you want to see; just sort of see guys taking steps in the right direction because that leads to great results.

"Trey's definitely [been] doing that since OTAs, taking a lot of steps, and he's definitely got plenty left to learn. But he's got all the intangibles to be a very good player in the NFL."

Lance's first and only NFL pass was a touchdown on a brilliant route from Trent Sherfield, but it wasn't a perfect debut from the No. 3 overall draft pick. The signal-caller's three carries netted just two yards.

The 49ers want to give their offense the best chance at succeeding in the short term, and clearly coach Kyle Shanahan still believes starting Jimmy Garoppolo is the best thing for the unit. That could change as Lance further develops, but for now Jimmy G appears to have his spot secured.

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All four NFC West teams wound up in the win column in Week 1, providing further evidence that the division might be the league's most formidable in 2021. Kittle knows there is lots of talent within the 49ers' division, but believes the other side of the ball is where the team can separate itself.

"NFC West, we've got a lot of [good players] out there," Kittle said. "The Cardinals got Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins. You've got Chandler Jones, Budda Baker. The Rams have Aaron Donald. That's pretty good by itself. And the Seahawks are always just bringing it with Russell Wilson. So you've got guys everywhere. But at the end of the day, they've got to go against our defense in Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead and Fred Warner. We have a lot of guys who can make a lot of plays, and I think our offense is going to continue to keep rolling.

"The one thing that we do better than I think anyone else in our division is run the damn ball. That's what we're going to continue to do and be violent, be physical every single week."

So far so good, and Kittle gets to face a team in Week 2 that he thoroughly dominated last season. When the 49ers met the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football in Week 4 of the 2020 season, Kittle caught all 15 of his targets, finishing with 183 yards and a touchdown. It was a career-high in catches for Kittle and his second most prolific yardage total of his young NFL career.

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