Why Trey Lance is doing too well as 49ers' scout team QB to Jimmie Ward

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Why Ward says Lance is doing too well as 49ers' scout team QB originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The 49ers’ secondary will face its biggest challenge of the season Saturday night going up against likely NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs.

The person assigned in practices this week to play the role of the Green Bay Packers quarterback is rookie Trey Lance.

The 49ers play the Packers on Saturday night in an NFC divisional-round playoff game at Lambeau Field. The winner advances to the NFC Championship Game against either the Los Angeles Rams or Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Safety Jimmie Ward spoke about Lance on the latest episode of 49ers Talk. Ward was asked if Lance Is giving the 49ers’ starting defense a good look in practices?

“Oh, yeah, too good of a look,” Ward answered. “Man!”

Rodgers is outstanding at buying time with his movement outside of the pocket and creating second-reaction plays down the field. The 49ers’ defense is getting plenty of practice against such plays this week — and every week, for that matter.

“Playing DB and the quarterback can’t get hit, and you got somebody running around with the football, trying to cover wide receivers for 10 seconds, that’s like plaster drill,” Ward said. “Every rep is a plaster drill. Even quarterbacks who don’t scramble, if Trey’s the quarterback, we’re still going to have to plaster."

The 49ers traded up to No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft to select Lance, who was anointed as the eventual successor to Jimmy Garoppolo. Lance's best physical attributes are his arm strength and athleticism.

“Sometimes he’ll roll out the pocket and look for the open guy, so we got to fight and try to contain the wide receiver,” Ward said. “And as hard as that is, it’s tough going against Trey.”

Lance remains in his role as the 49ers’ backup despite Garoppolo being impacted by injuries to his right thumb and shoulder. Lance started two games during the regular season, and he showed great improvement in the second half of his Week 17 start against the Houston Texans.

So what if Lance were called upon in the playoffs?

“I feel like he’d do well,” Ward said. “I just feel like it’s the reps with Trey Lance. Once you get in the NFL, you go through practice and he’s on the scout team going against us. It’s still not the real speed. It’s not the real speed unless you practice for it.”

Defensive linemen, obviously, do not get close to the quarterback in practices. And offensive linemen on the scout team are careful not to do anything that could lead to an injury to the defensive linemen. Therefore, it’s almost impossible for a quarterback to replicate the true sense of chaos that takes place in a game, Ward said.

“At the end of the day, I feel like he needs his reps,” Ward said of Lance. “Get on the field and he got some reps the couple weeks he started. And everything is learning lessons, whether you complete a pass, don’t complete a pass, throw a pick, almost throw a pick, complete a touchdown. All of it is learning lessons.”

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Rodgers did not start a game with the Packers for his first three seasons while sitting and learning behind Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre. Rodgers was prepared when he finally got his chance.

And even after 14 years as the starter, Rodgers is continuing to learn, grow and improve.

“The more lessons you get, the better you’ll be,” Ward said. “That’s why Aaron Rodgers is so good. He sat behind a Hall of Fame quarterback for, what, three to four years. And you finally get your (opportunity) to play and you do good and, OK, you get a starting role and you stay healthy.

“And he’s been starting ever since. And each year he got better and better and better. He’s seen so much football.”

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