© Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
It’s not the preseason without disappointing injuries. The San Francisco 49ers have just one preseason game remaining this Sunday, at home against the now Las Vegas Raiders, and they’ll be without a recent, former Raider.
Kyle Shanahan said on a conference call Monday that Maurice Hurst — who along with Arden Key, was released by the Raiders and signed by the 49ers this offseason — suffered a high ankle sprain and will be “out a while.” Veteran linebacker Mychal Kendricks suffered a turf toe sprain and is on a similar timeline.
“Anytime you have an ankle and a toe, you’re looking at at least a month,” Shanahan said.
Offensive lineman Senio Kelemente is also day-to-day with a back injury, and Alexander Myers avoided a concussion. Shanahan said the Hurst and Kendricks injuries — with the roster required to be cut down to 80 players by August 24 — will force the 49ers to weigh their options in getting through the final week of camp.
Hurst was having a stellar camp, but because he’s not a vested veteran (requires four years of NFL service time, Hurst has three), he can’t be immediately put on injured reserve, and would have to be waived/injured or kept on the final 53-man roster, then put on injured reserve. Kendricks, who is a vested veteran, can be put directly on injured reserve. The 49ers have a glut of talent on the interior of their defensive line, but with Hurst out, they may have to get clever about their roster moves.
The rest of Shanahan’s presser was mostly, as you’d expect, about Trey Lance. He also mentioned that rookie safety Talanoa Hufanga is absolutely in contention for the starting strong safety spot, saying he has “definitely given himself an opportunity” to win the job.
That last opportunity will come against the Raiders next weekend, when the plan is to use the starters. That could change depending on practice injuries, “but for the most part, I’d like to get everyone playing a little bit,” Shanahan said.
Now, onto Lance.
Shanahan said Lance was “better” generally and in terms of sticking to the technique the 49ers worked with him to amend, he was “much better in the second game.”
He also said that Lance made some adjustment both before and during the game related to mistakes he made against the Chiefs. It was the in-game adjustments which stood out. While he acknowledged Lance is probably throwing the ball a bit too hard on some shorter passes and needs to make it easier on his receivers, Shanahan said the receiving group needs to adjust.
“Some things he missed in the Chiefs game he definitely was focused on and corrected them in this game,” Shanahan said. “I also saw him make some corrections throughout the game, too, which was nice to see. Not having to wait till he got to the film and saw some things that he was aware of that he did, stuff I thought he cleaned up the more comfortable he got in there.”
Shanahan was most impressed by Lance’s response to the early rough patch, when he was 1-for-6 for nine yards with one interception. He also had to deal with a Wayne Gallman drop, and two arguable drops by Deebo Samuel and Mohamed Sanu, the latter of which was the interception.
“I just like how he responded throughout it. Trey hasn’t played a lot of football in the last year or so,” Shanahan said. “I think he’s thrown one interception since high school. So to watch him go out there and throw a pick, to have a couple close, those are some things he isn’t used to. And I know it got him down pretty bad, but to watch him go out there and recover was nice for me to see, because I haven’t seen him have to play through much stuff like that watching all of his college tape.
“He didn’t throw a pick till his one game in the COVID year. So to be able to see him do that on this stage and then do it out there and be able to leave him out there for a few series and let him kind of fight through that. I really think eventually, after that, he started getting into the best rhythm that he’s been in the last two games.”
The last thing Shanahan was asked about was the offense under Lance. General manager John Lynch said that on the way back from Justin Fields’ pro day, Shanahan was already drawing up plays for Lance. Asked about the Lance playbook, and whether he’s invented any new plays, Shanahan leaned on the past, saying that there aren’t really any new plays in football. The full answer is below:
Here's Shanahan's full answer explaining why there are no new plays in football
(First part of the question referenced how John Lynch said Shanahan was drawing up plays for Trey Lance on the way back from Justin Fields' pro day, and what Shanahan is crafting for Lance): https://t.co/hSJbyOKIjl pic.twitter.com/1n7Padr9Sd
— Jake Hutchinson (@hutchdiesel) August 23, 2021