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George Kittle heaps praise on Trey Lance as 49ers QB situation heats up

The 49ers’ depth chart is full of talent at quarterback, at least according to George Kittle.

As Brock Purdy recovers from elbow surgery following a full tear of his ulnar collateral ligament, San Francisco is giving opportunities to both former Jet Sam Darnold and 2021 first-round pick Trey Lance.

As the team progresses through OTAs, Lance has opened some eyes with his abilities under center.

San Francisco’s tight end was effusive in his praise of the 23-year-old signal caller, noting his improvements on throws thus far.

“I’m not gonna lie to you guys,” Kittle told reporters after the team’s OTAs on Tuesday. “I think Trey looks significantly better than he did last year. I really do. His confidence is there. He’s throwing really good passes.”

The comments come after it was reported in May that Lance had a “substantial” throwing-motion breakthrough thanks to Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) walks on the field during NFL football practice, Tuesday, May 23, 2023, in Santa Clara, Calif.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) walks on the field during NFL football practice on May 23, 2023, in Santa Clara, Calif.

Lance, in working with quarterbacks coach Jeff Christensen, watched Mahomes’ mechanics and quickly picked up what the two-time Super Bowl champion was doing.

“I said, ‘Watch this. Watch what he does here,’” Christensen told The Athletic. “It was something I was telling him to do that he wasn’t quite doing, and then he saw Patrick apply it perfectly. And I think that visual buy-in, that mental buy-in, helped him past that mental hump.”

In eight games since entering the league, Lance has thrown for 797 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions while completing 54.9 percent of his passes.

Lance had started the 2022 season as San Francisco’s quarterback but suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2, which led to starts for Jimmy Garoppolo and later Purdy.

The numbers in Lance’s first two seasons might not be eye-popping, but Kittle said the young quarterback has made strides to get better.

“He just looks comfortable back there,” Kittle said. He just looks like he’s having fun.”

George Kittle speaks to reporters
George Kittle speaks to reporters following the team’s practice on June 6, 2023.

This renewed hype in Lance comes amid the excitement over Darnold, who signed as a free agent this offseason.

San Francisco running back Christian McCaffrey went as far as to say Darnold “can do everything,” despite what his 55 interceptions in 56 career games might say.

As for Purdy, it’s still unclear when he might return from his elbow surgery after leading the 49ers one game short of the Super Bowl.

General manager John Lynch liked what he saw in Purdy during five regular-season games and two postseason contests, reiterating his faith in 2022’s “Mr. Irrelevant” during an interview with SiriusXM last week.

“Brock is the leader in the clubhouse, as we said, but it’s open for competition,” Lynch said in the interview.

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