The San Francisco 49ers bounced back from a 2020 season filled with injuries, and the coronavirus pandemic at its height. They advanced to the NFC championship game against the Los Angeles Rams. The 49ers did not get the results they were hoping for against Los Angeles, but the loss led to optimism for the upcoming 2022 season. After months of speculation on who would be the 49ers starting quarterback, head coach Kyle Shanahan cleared the air on who would be the man under center in San Francisco.
“We have moved on to Trey,” said Shanahan. “We’re starting camp out this way. We think Jimmy would’ve been traded if the surgery didn’t happen, and it did; he needs to do it, so there’s no ill-will there at all. It’s good to see that he is healthy, but now it’s all just seeing how this will end up. All three of us are on the same page.” At the moment, the team is still waiting for a trade partner so that they can move on from Jimmy Garoppolo. According to reports, the 49ers could release Garoppolo if no team shows interest.
Outside of the quarterback situation, the 49ers were able to sign star wideout Deebo Samuel to a new deal. Samuel’s new contract is for three years and is worth $73.5 million. The team also went through turnover in areas such as offensive coordinator and four position coaches. Mike McDaniels, who was Shanahan’s top play-caller, is now the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.
Previewing the 49ers’ Offense
Not too many were impressed with the small sample size that was put on display by Trey Lance in 2021. He made two starts as the 49ers’ starting QB but only had attempted 71 passes in both contests. Lance had a 58.4 QBR, and the 49ers scored a season-low 10 points in his first appearance under center.
At the time, the 49ers were fighting for a playoff spot, and the formula was to run the football successfully and let the defense control the flow of those two games. Shanahan’s intent was not to showcase his skillsets at that moment. In 2022, we’ll better understand how the offense will flow with Lance as the starting quarterback.
He will inherit a roster with unlimited amounts of talent on offense. Samuel posted a career-high with 1,405 receiving yards. He also became the only player in league history to have 1,200 receiving yards and 300 rushing yards in a season. A player to be on the lookout for this upcoming year is Samuel’s fellow wideout Brandon Aiyuk. Aiyuk finished the year strong with 826 receiving yards.
Tight-end George Kittle and fullback Kyle Juszczyk will be two options that Lance can utilize in the passing game. But, no matter how dynamic the 49ers may look in the passing game, the hallmark of their system will revolve around the rushing attack. Elijah Mitchell was the latest running game to continue the 49ers’ plug-and-play moniker. As a rookie, Mitchell rushed for 963 yards and five TDs.
Previewing the 49ers’ Defense
The 49ers bring back one of the best units on defense throughout the entire league. In 2021, San Francisco ranked sixth in the fewest passing yards allowed. Those achievements were accomplished despite having issues within their secondary. The Niners had a league-leading 21 pass-interference calls that went against them. The unit also accounted for the third-fewest pass breakups and the fifth-fewest interceptions while allowing the fifth-highest completion percentage. Despite the issues within the secondary, the team expects better production from players such as Emmanuel Moseley and Ambry Thomas.
In addition, pass rusher Nick Bosa is coming off his best season at the professional level. He posted a career-high 15.5 sacks. The prior season, Bosa missed the remainder of the year after suffering a torn ACL in Week 2 against the Jets. Fellow teammate Arik Armstead expected to build off his career-high eight sacks last season. In addition, the defensive line will have a new face in rookie Drake Jackson out of USC. The group is counting on Jackson as an additional pass rusher outside Bosa.
Broncos, September 25
Rams, October 3/October 30
Chiefs, October 23
Chargers, November 13
Saints, November 27
Dolphins, December 4
Buccaneers, December 11
Commanders, December 24
Raiders, January 1
Win-Loss Projections: 10-7 (Playoff Contender)
Lance will have ups and downs in his first year as the 49ers starting quarterback. No one should be surprised by his roller-coaster sophomore season. However, he will be guided in the right direction by having Kyle Shanahan as his coach, an elite defense, and a plethora of talent on offense. The NFC is so weak that a team like San Francisco can go on another late playoff push and qualify for the tournament.