NFL Insider Notes: Trey Lance Injury Clouds 49ers Future QB Plan, Tua Uses Guns & More From Week 2


Trey Lance’s season-ending ankle injury means the San Francisco 49ers will know even less about their franchise quarterback heading into his third year in 2023 with barely any great, real-time football under his belt.

Lance’s first quarter ankle fracture ended his season the way it started. In two seasons, he’s had just 102 pass attempts, which is the fourth-fewerest in the top five of their first two seasons since 1967. And it could put the Niners in a very precarious quarterback situation if conditions were to change in certain ways this year. unpack .

First of all, San Francisco is lucky that it was able to hold Jimmy Garoppolo. The insurance policy they had by restructuring the former franchise QB is now paying off, and the Niners will be happy to pay the extra $350,000 a week if it means guiding them to wins.

Winning this season is the most important thing, and what needs to happen next season is a bridge that GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan won’t have to cross in the coming months. But make no mistake: that bridge is coming.

At first, keeping Garoppolo seemed like a telltale sign to some that San Francisco would eventually have to bench Lance in favor of Jimmy G. That buzz got louder this past week after the loss in the 2022 Great Chicago Monsoon.

While it’s true that Lance didn’t have an impressive preseason or training camp, I was told he ramped up his game in training immediately after Garoppolo restructured his deal. There was optimism—maybe even confidence—that this was going to work. Now, a significant injury setback for the young dual-threat quarterback.

The Niners sent away two future first-round picks to trade for Lance. It’s a significant amount for someone who has thrown 102 passes for them in two seasons. Shanahan has reiterated that Lance is their man in public and private.

But now you’ve got Garoppolo with a one-year incentive-laden deal. He took you to one Super Bowl and came in on a dropped interception from another. The 49ers have arguably one of the most talented rosters in the entire league. And given the early flaws we see in Los Angeles, no one would blame you if you use San Francisco to win the NFC West now.

What happens when Garoppolo balls? After all, he has won 33 of his career 47 starts and he doesn’t even get credit for Sunday’s win against the Seahawks. He has a no-tag clause in his contract, so a big year means a big payday in 2023 for the upcoming 31-year-old quarterback.

The Niners could see Garoppolo walk out the door for nothing more than a compensatory pick mid-round as they handed the franchise to the inexperienced Lance, and whatever insurance they get in March, it wouldn’t be as good as the one they just cashed in. Sunday.

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There are worse problems than winning a bunch for a year and then having to make a tough decision as quarterback months later. But that’s a first-world problem that San Francisco could realistically face right after this season.

Tua spreads the wealth

Tua Tagovailoa has had the game of his career so far, and his six touchdowns clearly stand out for what is likely to earn him the AFC Offensive Player of the Week award in a short time.

But how well Tagovailoa spread the ball was just as impressive. Nine dolphins were caught on Sunday against the Ravens and 10 were targeted. Jaylen Waddle had a total of 19 goals, Tyreek Hill had 13, and tight end Mike Gesicki caught all four of his goals for 41 yards and a touchdown.

Waddle’s 19 goals destroyed his previous career high of 13. Last week, when I sat down with Tagovailoa for a one-on-one interview for The NFL Today“I asked him if it was a blessing or a curse to have to account for how he distributes the ball with such an abundance of weapons at his disposal.

“I think everything is a blessing and a curse. I consider this a blessing. Being able to have all these guys I can throw at,” Tagovailoa said. “There are some plays that we sure wish we had back” [in Week 1 against the Patriots] and there are a few where things break and the first time I read I have to get all the way to my last reading. Things like that happen and that’s how we should play the game. You can line up the best plays and have this guy wide open in practice and then in the game it’s totally different. So you just respond to what’s given to you there.”

And while Tagovailoa may have reacted more to the noise from outside this off-season than ever before, he’s back to block everyone outside the building or in his circle.

“I don’t necessarily go on Twitter because I don’t manage my accounts. I have someone who helps manage my accounts,” he explained. “I’d hear it from my teammates and I’d be like, ‘Okay, let me see what they said.’ But that’s something I can’t control What I say about you, you can’t control that What you say about me, I can’t control that That’s what it is What can I control What can I don’t check?

“It’s either I let it affect me or I don’t let it affect me. So with my reaction, that’s just what I’ve heard. Then I go home to my wife and we watch movies and you know, I enjoy my live. That’s how I go.”

Reworking the winning formula

I have a bone to pick with analytics. *breathes in deeply*

I believe in analytics. I like analyses. I think analytics is getting a bad rap with many in the football community. After all, everyone uses analytics to some degree, even if they don’t like the term “analytics.”

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I struggle with the odds of winning, and I always have.

Prior to the doubleheader on Monday-evening, only 30 regular-season games have been played so far this year. By my count, five would have been won if the final loser had a 93% or greater chance of winning in the fourth quarter (and six games with a 90% or greater chance). kinds of situations – or once in 20 – happen with regularity early this season.

In Week 1, the Falcons had a 97% chance of winning with 12:55 to go in the fourth quarter against the Saints when they held a 23-10 lead. Atlanta lost 27-26. The Bengals had a 93% chance of winning 20-all with four minutes left in overtime against the Steelers, losing 23-20.

On Sunday, the Browns had over a 99% chance of winning, up 30-17 with 1:55 left in the game. (Okay, I get this one.) Baltimore had a 98% chance of winning when the Ravens were leading 35-21 with 10 minutes left. The Dolphins won 42-38.

And the Raiders had a 96% chance of winning at a 23-15 lead with 16 seconds left against the Cardinals. But Arizona was on the 3-yard line. The Cardinals had to score from 9 feet out, then get the 2-point conversion to equalize and score first or more in overtime. Are you telling me that the odds of Arizona winning the game were only 4% at the time? This… I just don’t know.

My husband RJ White, the editor-in-chief of CBS Sports Fantasy, made a good point when I publicly raised my concerns last night.

I acknowledge that I am looking at a sample size of 30 here and making a determination when the odds of winning take into account thousands of games over the decades. But that may be exactly the problem. Why should we weigh teams coming back from a 10-point deficit in, say, 1993 the same as we do today?

The NFL has made no secret of its commitment to equality throughout the league. 12 games have already been decided by three or fewer points, most during two weeks of each NFL season. Eight teams have cleared at least 10-point deficits to win or equalize, the second-most all-time through Week 2. The game is changing, and these close games and tight finishes regularly lead to the tally being taken by the competition agency to the media. All about messages!

Maybe we should add “historical” for the odds of winning. Or people who didn’t get a “C” in the one statistics class they took in college could determine an “adjusted odds” to account for the aforementioned offensive blast.

Not so special teams

One of the big storylines of Week 1 was the kickers, whether they made or missed big field goals. In week 2, there were a few special teams that may have flown under the radar.

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With the Dolphins winning in dramatic fashion, it’s easy to forget that they allowed a 103-yard kick-off for a touchdown from Devin Duvernay. It was Duvernay’s second kick-return TD in his career, but the first to be allowed by the Dolphins since the 2019 season.

In Pittsburgh, the Steelers did not block shooter Brenden Schooler on a punt in the third quarter. Schooler cleared the field to Gunner Olszewski, and when Olszewski muffled the punt, he was there to collect. The Patriots would score three games later to extend their lead to 17-6, and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin called it an “important play” in his post-game press conference.

And the operational problems continued with the Denver Broncos into Week 2. Late in the third quarter, the Broncos lined up for a 54-yard field goal with Brandon McManus, who missed a 64-yard game winner the previous week in the much-discussed game. decision by head coach Nathaniel Hackett. The Broncos eventually had to take a delay penalty – their third in seven quarters to that point – and kicked when the attempt would have been a 59-yarder in good weather and high altitude.

“That was something we talked about beforehand in those situations,” Hackett said later. “We decided we wanted to go for the kick and then of course we had the delay of the game and decided to punt it because our defense was doing really well.”

They burned their second half timeout with 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter when they failed to return a punt for a Houston punt. The Broncos had just fired Davis Mills in third and the Texans were in a clear punt situation on fourth and 14 of the Denver 45 in a close 13-9 game. But the Broncos had no repechage on the field and had to call a timeout.

Brown’s defense has work to do

The Cleveland Browns have to bounce back from the epic collapse against the Jets this week, and it starts with their defense.

The defense got sloppy in the soft zone against the Jets, letting Joe Flacco dominate in the final two minutes of the game. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods will have to make adjustments this week so the same doesn’t happen on a short week against Mitchell Trubisky and the Steelers on Thursday night.

It seems hard to believe at this point that he will have his second best pass rusher. Jadeveon Clowney left the game in the second half with an ankle injury and was later seen wearing a boot on his right foot. Rarely is a player in a hiking boot on Sunday and taking impact shots four days later.