While it seems like San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will make the start against the Packers on Saturday, he’s not without injury. His thumb has been an issue for the last month and he came out of the 49ers’ game against the Cowboys with a shoulder injury. With Garoppolo banged up, it stands to reason that Packers fans’ worst nightmare may come to light: a mobile quarterback taking snaps in a playoff game. Scar tissue from the Colin Kaepernick years are still present and Trey Lance could open up a wound that had begun to heal over.
Let’s be clear, though. Trey Lance is a limited quarterback at this point in his career. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has continued to choose to start an injured Garoppolo over him and Lance hasn’t shown a whole lot in his limited opportunities. Early on in the year, Shanahan had specific situations and packages for Lance. He’d put him in on short yardage or on the goal line and would use him as a runner to gain blockers in the run game. In Weeks 1 and 3 he had seven snaps on offense before Garoppolo got hurt in Week 4. Lance then played the next one and a half games before injuring his knee in Week 5 against the Cardinals. Since then, Lance made an appearance in garbage time against the Jacksonville Jaguars and started San Francisco’s Week 17 game for a yet-again-injured Jimmy Garoppolo. Other than that, there have been no special packages, no gadget plays, nothing.
With Garoppolo’s health tenuous and the biggest game of the season on the horizon, Trey Lance may be in line for a handful of snaps on what will be a chilly Saturday night at Lambeau Field. There are four concepts that Shanahan uses most often with Lance: read option, QB counter bash, quarterback draw option, and rollouts with the Sail concept. If the Packers can take away those four concepts, Trey Lance will pose no threat to their Super Bowl aspirations.
The read option leaves the end man on the line of scrimmage unblocked for the quarterback to read. If that player feeds inside towards the handoff, the quarterback can then pull the ball and run outside of them. If the defender stays to defend the quarterback, the ball is handed off and there’s one less defender contributing to the tackle. It’s a simple way to gain an extra blocker in the run scheme.
QB Counter Bash
QB Counter Bash uses the regular counter blocking scheme with a guard and tackle pulling across the formation. What makes it different, is the running back going away from the designed run. In turn, the quarterback runs the counter scheme. By having the running back run away, that holds the backside defenders. Those defenders will often try to ride the pulling linemen right into the play. With the threat to the backside from the running back, that slows those defenders’ pursuit and allows the play to develop for the quarterback.
Counter bash can be a called keeper for the quarterback, or it can be a read play. When it’s a read, the quarterback identifies the backside linebacker. If that player fits or flows with the pulling linemen, the quarterback will hand the ball off. If they stay put with the threat of the running back to the outside, the quarterback will pull the ball and run counter.
Quarterback Draw / Bubble Option
The quarterback draw with the bubble option is the most common run scheme the 49ers use with Trey Lance. It’s another linebacker read and is designed to create a light box for the quarterback to run into or to throw the ball outside and stress the perimeter.
San Francisco will use push motion to send the running back outside pre-snap and they’ll also run it with no motion. Either way, Trey Lance is looking at the play-side linebacker. If that player widens with the running back outside, that leaves one less person in the box. Lance will then take it on the draw play. If they stay, he throws the ball outside where the 49ers now have numbers.
Lastly, we have one of the staples of the Shanahan offense – play-action rollouts with the Sail concept. Sail has three receivers on the same side of the field running routes at three different depths. That overloads defensive zones and the rollout stresses defenses horizontally and punishes them for flowing to stop the run game. They’re simple reads, get Lance out in space with the ability to scramble, and tie in seamlessly to the rest of Shanahan’s offense.
There’s always the threat of Kyle Shanahan scheming up a specific “gotcha” play for Trey Lance, but his base package isn’t very diverse. It can be incredibly effective in short yardage, which is when we should expect to see Lance most often. However, as a true dropback passer, Lance still has quite a ways to go. He quickly bails from pockets, is late on reads, and struggles with touch. If the Packers can force him away from his bread-and-butter, Green Bay has nothing to fear from this iteration of mobile San Francisco quarterback.