Trey Lance was the talk of the NFL world last week after the 49ers' tough preseason opener against the Las Vegas Raiders, where the No. 3 overall pick of the 2021 draft got off to a slow start.
But the third-year quarterback turned the page in San Francisco's 21-20 preseason win over the Denver Broncos on Saturday at Levi's Stadium, contributing to the 49ers' victory with three straight scoring drives to end the game on a high note.
Despite the heightened media scrutiny surrounding Lance this past week as he battles Sam Darnold for the 49ers' backup job, Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson believes the best is yet to come for the 23-year-old.
"The thing about Trey that people have to understand is ... The guy got drafted at 20 years old with the weight of the world on his shoulders," Russell told reporters after Saturday's game. "I think that the thing about it is he's a tremendous football player. He’s got a lot of gifts, he's got a lot of talent, and it's going to turn for his good. Trey's a guy that's worked at his craft, watching him and just all the things he's done.
"But also the best thing that Trey can do is ignore the noise. There's only so many people in the world that get to play this position. There's only so many people in the world that get to step in between the white lines on a National Football League field. He's one of them. He's a guy that’s going to have a great career. He’s just got to keep working at it and know that there's going to be some tough days, there's going to be some great days.
"It's one of those things that you just trust the process. You trust the process, you enjoy the journey, and you have tunnel vision. You put the blinders on, you keep working and there's always a breakthrough. I'm rooting for him. I think he's got a lot of talent, a lot of ability, and a lot of years left."
During the 2022 NFL season, Wilson himself faced criticism when his first campaign in a Broncos uniform didn't go as planned after he signed a lucrative five-year contract extension following his trade from the Seattle Seahawks. The season was considered a massive disappointment for Denver and resulted in the firing of then-head coach Nathaniel Hackett, but Wilson looked like his old self in the Broncos' opening drive against the 49ers on Saturday.
San Francisco 49ers
Wilson isn't the only quarterback who has voiced support for Lance in recent days. Former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith said on SiriusXM NFL Radio this week that, as a former high first-round pick himself, he identifies with Lance's "unfair" plight of facing sky-high expectations.
"You can see him wanting so badly to go out there and justify that [draft position],” Smith said. “You don’t want to make a mistake. You hold onto the ball a little too hard. You almost want it too bad.”
Like Wilson noted, Lance has shown he possesses the skills to succeed as an NFL quarterback. But whether or not he'll get the opportunity to develop now is up in the air due to injuries and the ascension of 49ers starter Brock Purdy, who proved his worth in Lance's absence last season.
And as Lance waits for that chance while blocking out the noise, it's clear there are plenty of people in his corner -- including one of the 49ers' fiercest rivals over the years in Wilson.