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Lance, Banks highlight what to watch for at 49ers OTAs originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Trey Lance is the 49ers’ presumptive starting quarterback for the 2022 season.
Beginning this week at the team’s organized team activities in Santa Clara, there will be zero debate or controversy.
Lance, the No. 3 overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, will take the first-team snaps during practice sessions.
However, there remains some uncertainty on the 49ers’ depth chart.
Jimmy Garoppolo still holds a spot on the 90-man offseason roster. Garoppolo is 11 weeks into an anticipated 16-week recovery from shoulder surgery that derailed the 49ers’ plan to trade him this offseason. Garoppolo only receives his scheduled $24.2 million base salary for the upcoming season if he is on the 49ers to open the regular season.
During organized team activities, the NFL requires teams to open one practice per week to the local media. This week, that practice is Tuesday. And here are some things to watch:
How Lance carries himself
The first time one of Lance’s aerials is off the mark, it’ll be reason to call off the 2022 season.
But, then, he can save the franchise if he makes the kind of throws on the 49ers’ practice field that, apparently, he repeatedly made last season during practices.
Of course, none of that really matters.
What is important is how Lance looks in other areas. Does leadership come naturally to him? How do his teammates respond? Does he get the team in and out of the huddle efficiently? Is this clearly his show?
Also, there were probably some mechanical issues that need to be tightened in Lance’s throwing motion.
Because nobody has really seen him throw a football since Jan. 2, he will unquestionably be the center of attention.
Plan of attack without Mack
Center Alex Mack probably performed better than expected last season after deciding to play at least one more year.
It is not publicly known at this point if Mack will definitely return for a 14th season. The 49ers did not sign or draft anyone who would be viewed as his obvious replacement.
The practices will at least give an indication of how the 49ers plan to proceed if Mack is not back -- or if a backup must be called upon.
Jake Brendel was the 49ers’ backup center last season. Daniel Brunskill could also slide to center, which would create an opening at right guard. Jaylon Moore, Spencer Burford and Nick Zakelj are recent draft picks who could work their way into prominent roles on the interior of the offensive line.
Who’s at nickel back? Gotta be somebody
The 49ers often raved about the contributions of nickel back K’Waun Williams during his five seasons with the club. But they proved they can win without him, too. Williams opted not to play in the Week 18 game against the Los Angeles Rams because he did not feel properly prepared upon returning from the COVID-19 list.
Williams signed with the Denver Broncos this offseason as a free agent.
The 49ers will have a new nickel back this season, and the competition appears to be wide open. Among those under consideration are Darqueze Dennard, Deommodore Lenoir and rookie Sam Womack. Lenoir got off to a nice start last season but ran into a rough patch. He must show he has a better grasp of the defensive calls.
Tomlinson’s replacement? Banks on it
The 49ers did not feel much urgency to push Aaron Banks into the starting lineup as a rookie. Part of the reason the club selected him in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft was because they figured Laken Tomlinson would probably be a goner in free agency after another high-level season.
Banks did not show much in training camp before he sustained a shoulder injury and missed a couple of weeks of practice before the start of the regular season. He never made a serious challenge for the starting job at right guard.
During the season, GM John Lynch remarked at the improvements Banks was making behind the scenes.
“He really reshaped his body, and we’re really excited about getting him out there and letting him compete,” Lynch said this offseason.
It is often foolhardy to try to judge linemen during these spring months when nobody is wearing pads. But in the case of Banks, it should be immediately apparent if he is moving better and with more purpose than a year ago.
First shot to replace Tartt
Longtime starting safety Jaquiski Tartt remains unsigned as an unrestricted free agent. Before the 49ers would even consider bringing back Tartt on a one-year contract, they might want to see how some of the younger players look in his spot.
Talanoa Hufanga started three games and played nearly 400 snaps of defense as a rookie. He is likely the first in line to take over the full-time role.
Tarvarius Moore had a decent chance to unseat Tartt a year ago, but he sustained a season-ending torn Achilles in the offseason workout a year ago. He is back. The 49ers also brought in George Odum, a core special-teams players who started seven games for the Indianapolis Colts last season.
Sermon’s actions speak loudly
The 49ers invested a third-round pick in running back Trey Sermon a year ago. Sixth-round pick Elijah Mitchell beat him out and ended up being a major contributor.
This year, the 49ers again selected a running back, Ty Davis-Price, in the third round of the draft. The 49ers want to build better depth at running back.
The onus is clearly on Sermon to show the 49ers they did not make a mistake. That starts this week with Sermon’s ability to make the necessary reads and hit the correct hole time and time again in the 49ers’ outside zone running scheme.
Bosa on his own, again?
Defensive end Nick Bosa did not take part in any of the 49ers’ voluntary workouts a year ago. And the 49ers were just fine with that, as he kept them updated on his progress as he rehabbed from a torn ACL.
The 49ers might want to make sure that Bosa sticks to his routine of working out during these offseason months with a personal trainer and his brother, Joey, in Florida. Nick Bosa said he expects to come back in even better shape in his quest to improve on a season in which he registered 19.5 sacks in 20 games.
Like Samuel, Bosa is also eligible for a new contract this offseason. The 49ers picked up the fully guaranteed fifth-year option with Bosa, which would pay him $17.8 million in the 2023 season.
More wideout reps with Deebo playing hooky
Without any long-term financial security, wide receiver Deebo Samuel was never expected to step on the practice field with the 49ers until he signs a new contract this offseason.
Samuel requested a trade this offseason, so he clearly has felt some level of acrimony this offseason. Also, there is simply no reason for him to take any risks by going through practices before he signs his long-term contract.
Brandon Aiyuk is the clear No. 1 receiver taking part in the 49ers’ offseason work. After Aiyuk there will be plenty of competition for playing time. Jauan Jennings proved last season that he is capable of holding down a significant role in the offense as a No. 3 receiver.
Ray-Ray McCloud is also vying for playing time as the slot receiver. And when rookie Danny Gray permanently joins the offseason program, he will fit into the competition, too.