After a slippery, wet loss at Chicago in the first game of the Trey Lance era, there may be a feeling of anxiety hanging over the 49ers fan base.
Expectations are naturally high after the draft day haul the team gave up for the potential star QB of the future.
The “backup” who still lingers around took the Niners to one Super Bowl and to the verge of another, and patience may be obviously thin with Lance.
As we indicated earlier this season in this space, though, patience is required, and we cannot rush to any solid judgments after a season opener played in awful conditions. The Niners also lost their top running back, making the challenges even more daunting going forward.
We could not have realistically expected Jimmy Garoppolo to fare much better at Chicago, and regardless of who will be at QB, the loss of Mitchell does hurt the offense.
49ers-Seahawks Could Be A Revealing Matchup
The Week 2 home opener matchup with the rival Seahawks can be more telling about how the offense might shape up, but there are also personnel issues to consider in what could be a tightly contested matchup. Seattle’s defense played much better than expected against Denver and will be more aggressive this season under new Defensive Coordinator Clint Hurtt.
This is not going to necessarily be the easy matchup some assumed when the 2022 schedule was first released. Divisional clashes can always be tough, and Pete Carroll will have his team ready to play hard, as has been the case since he arrived in Seattle.
There is some rain in the early forecast for Sunday’s game, but nflweather.com has indicated only light rain and winds in their outlook so far. The 49ers’ wide receivers do seem to have the advantage on paper against the Seattle secondary. Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk should be big keys to getting things rolling in Week 2.
If the 49ers move out to a comfortable lead, Geno Smith might be much less comfortable playing catch-up. Seattle’s rookie offensive tackles fared well against Denver but could be beaten more often if working in frequently adverse passing situations against the Niners’ pass rushers.
Lance is going to need someone to step forward and ease some pressure on him in the backfield with Mitchell out. The first candidate is Jeff Wilson, who rushed for seven TDs in 2020. He is an internal favorite who has continued to stick on the roster, but he has also dealt with durability issues and may be better utilized as the top option in a timeshare or committee situation.
The problem is, that there is uncertainty as to who can be counted on along with Wilson.
Tyrion Davis-Price was drafted to be a projected significant contributor at running back as a rookie, but he did not wow anyone in the preseason and was inactive in Week 1. Jordan Mason is in the mix, but he is an undrafted rookie.
Marlon Mack was signed to the practice squad, but getting cut by a Texans team that has been weak at running back for so long, though, is not a good indication that he can have much of an impact if he is elevated to the active roster.
Lance and his receivers will be a heavy focal point of the offense, which still may be without George Kittle. While missing Mitchell and Kittle, there are no guarantees that Garoppolo would be much of a major improvement as a potential starter for Week 2.
The onus will be on Lance this week to show off more of the dynamic skills that he possesses, to compensate for the personnel issues, and of course, to ease any tides that could rise for Garoppolo to take over if Lance struggles against Seattle.
Why The 49ers Must Win in Week 2
The Niners cannot afford to head into a matchup with the Broncos at 0-2. This is an important win to be notched to show Lance can respond after a loss and in an early-season key situation where a win is needed.
Performing well can demonstrate that he is willing and capable to lead the offense when there are adverse factors at play. This could be a big week for Lance to prove that he is indeed worthy of the major investment the franchise made in him.
The pressure on Lance seems to be increasing, and there are two ways he can respond while Garoppolo is lurking: He can ramp up his play, knowing he could be potentially yanked at any time, or he could also put more pressure on himself and struggle.
He will be under a bright spotlight against the Seahawks to see exactly how he will handle the situation.
Featured Image: Getty Images