George Kittle sings Trey Lance's praises from 49ers OTAs: 'Trey looks significantly better'

It's another NFL offseason.

That means it's another offseason of quarterback chaos in San Francisco.

The 49ers are in the midst of OTAs while presumed 2023 starter Brock Purdy recovers from elbow surgery. In the meantime, 2021 first-round pick Trey Lance is splitting reps with the first team alongside offseason acquisition Sam Darnold.

According to tight end George Kittle, Lance is looking a lot more like a first-round pick than he did before.

"I'm not gonna lie to you guys," Kittle said Tuesday while speaking with reporters. "I think Trey looks significantly better than he did last year. I really do. His confidence is there. He's throwing really good passes. ...

"He overthrows people once in a while. Hey, it is what it is; he's still learning and stuff. But, just watching him, he looks so much more comfortable in the pocket. I really appreciate that from him from all the work that he's put into it. ... He just looks comfortable back there. He just looks like he's having fun."

There are a couple of schools of thought here. Kittle is genuinely optimistic about Lance and his chances to wrangle back the starting job that was once presumed to be his — eventually — when he was selected with the No. 3 pick in 2021. Or he's simply taking the company line and pumping up Lance's trade value. Either way, it makes sense for Kittle to sing Lance's praises. There's no real downside to doing so.

George Kittle and Trey Lance have made a connection at 49ers OTAs. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
George Kittle and Trey Lance have made a connection at 49ers OTAs. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Head coach Kyle Shanahan has mostly remained coy about his thoughts on the quarterback situation, but has pointed to Purdy's 2022 performance and his progress in recovering from UCL surgery in time to be installed for Week 1.

"We’re hoping for Week 1, and I feel pretty optimistic about that," Shanahan said in May. "That’s what we’re hoping for that he’ll be ready to play in Week 1, and usually that doesn’t mean that’s the day he comes back.

"Usually you gotta come before that to make that goal and that’s kinda the goal we’re hoping for, and we don’t have any reason to think differently."

Purdy came in and earned the job late last season. Lance, meanwhile, has never truly had a shot at winning it. He was a project when San Francisco drafted him and sat behind Jimmy Garoppolo as a rookie. Given the reins for his sophomore campaign, he broke his ankle in his second start, ceding the job back to Garoppolo. Then came Purdy, who was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL during the back half of the season after replacing an injured Garoppolo.

It was a revelation from the seventh-round rookie who was selected with the final pick in the 2022 draft. But a UCL injury in the NFC championship game threw the 49ers back into chaos and the uncertainty they face today.

Outside of the questions at quarterback, the 49ers look again very much like a Super Bowl contender, with strength at multiple positions on both sides of the ball. But Purdy's health and recovery remains a question mark. And Lance is impressing at OTAs. If and until Lance is traded, speculation around the 49ers quarterback situation will continue to swirl.