What we learned about Lance in 49ers' preseason win in LA

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INGLEWOOD — Coach Kyle Shanahan has reason to be satisfied with the events of Sunday evening.

It was not always pretty. It rarely is during the exhibition season. The 49ers committed too many penalties, dropped too many catchable passes, threw too many off-target passes, and made too many mistakes, in general.

But the 49ers' 15-10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers also provided valuable teaching moments.
And the person who benefited the most was the rookie whom the 49ers selected No. 3 overall to eventually become the team's quarterback of the future.

Here are three takeaways from the second game of the preseason:

Lance experiences expected ups and downs 

It has been difficult for everyone to keep expectations in check for Trey Lance, especially after he looked exceedingly steady and mature through the first few weeks of training camp.

Jimmy Garoppolo started Sunday night and was on the field for a 15-play drive. Lance took the field to open the second drive. The pre-game plan was to go back to Garoppolo. Because Garoppolo’s one series lasted so long, Shanahan opted to give him the rest of the evening off.

Lance got off to a slow start. His first three drives consisted of 11 plays for 25 yards, including an interception.

But Lance reminded everyone that he is a big play waiting to happen. And he heated up when he got one last chance before the end of the first half.

After completing one of his first five attempts and owning a passer rating of 0.0, Lance got things going when the 49ers took over at their 25-yard line with :57 remaining in the first half. He hit wide receiver Trent Sherfield on a 41-yard pass to set up a 5-yard scoring pass to Mohamed Sanu with 12 seconds left in the half.

Lance’s first two possessions ended with high throws off the hands of Brandon Aiyuk and Sanu, the latter going for an interception. But after that sloppy start, he ended his evening on a couple high notes. In the third quarter, he drove the 49ers to another touchdown when he zipped a 15-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin on a crossing route between three defenders.

Lance finished the night with eight completions on 15 pass attempts for 102 yards with two TDs and one interception. His passer rating was 89.9. He scrambled once for 8 yards and a first down, and was sacked twice for minus-8 yards.

He played 32 snaps in the game.

After every series, Lance took a seat on the bench alongside quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello. Those two could be seen going over the pictures from the previous series.

It’s all part of the ups-and-downs — and learning experiences — to be expected from any rookie quarterback during the preseason.

Moving parts on D-line?

In addition to the 49ers’ projected starters along their defensive line, the team has reason to feel good about several other of their players who have looked good in training camp and are fighting for roles.

The 49ers could be getting a nice boost to their depth on the defensive line in the middle of the season with Jordan Willis. Originally acquired last season in a trade with the New York Jets, Willis re-signed with the 49ers this offseason.

The NFL announced in June that Willis was suspended for the first six games of the regular season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. He has been able to participate in training camp and preseason games.

On Sunday, he registered a sack for a safety against the Chargers.

Defensive tackle Maurice Hurst and Zach Kerr are two veteran players competing for backup roles. Hurst’s immediate future became a little cloudy on Sunday when he sustained an ankle injury in the first half and was immediately ruled out from returning to the game.

Kerr, an eighth-year pro, had a good game with a quarterback hurry and drawing a holding penalty.

Working on depth in the secondary

The 49ers lack proven depth in the defensive backfield, so it is understandable they are taking no chances with their starters during the exhibition season.

Starting cornerbacks Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley, as well as veteran safeties Jimmie Ward and Tavon Wilson, did not play in the game. Each was a healthy scratch, except for Moseley, who missed this week with a tight hamstring.

The 49ers started three rookies in the defensive backfield — cornerbacks Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir, and safety Talanoa Hufanga — along with veteran newcomer Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who is trying to land a job after signing with the team on Aug. 12.

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Clinton-Dix earned a trip to the Pro Bowl for his play in the 2016 season with the Green Bay Packers. He did not play last season after the Dallas Cowboys cut him at the end of training camp. He said he signed with the 49ers this summer with renewed passion and vigor.

Lenoir broke up a third-down pass to end the Chargers’ first drive. Lenoir has played well during training camp and is making a strong bid to be the team’s No. 3 corner.

Hufanga had a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. He figures to be one of the team’s top special-teams players. Thomas, a third-round draft pick, had four tackles but also surrendered a 39-yard completion from Chargers quarterback Easton Stick to second-year receiver Jalen Guyton.

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