49ers' Biggest Weaknesses Ahead of 2022 NFL Training Camp
The San Francisco 49ers are on track to begin the 2022 NFL season with a new starting quarterback and center.
San Francisco committed to Trey Lance under center once the 2021 season ended, but it still has not traded or cut Jimmy Garoppolo.
Lance appears to be the starter no matter what Garoppolo's status on the roster is, but that decision comes with a big question mark since the 2021 first-round pick has played minimal snaps over the last three years.
The 49ers will definitely have a new center in place after Alex Mack's recent retirement. The NFC West side will likely use internal candidates to replace Mack, but the drop-off from a perennial Pro Bowler could hurt it early in the season.
San Francisco is better equipped to win games with its defense early in the season while the offense sorts itself out.
However, the 49ers face some questions in the secondary, where a reshaped unit must be at its best from Week 1 to put the team in contention for a playoff spot out of a crowded NFC West.
Trey Lance could turn into a star in the NFL.
No one knows with full certainty what kind of quarterback Lance will be in his first season as a starter because he has not played much in the last three years.
Lance missed his final season at North Dakota State because the COVID-19 pandemic shifted the FCS season to spring during the player's draft preparations.
He started two games in relief of Garoppolo last season, but that is too small of a sample size to judge a quarterback's career.
The 49ers are at a disadvantage compared to other teams across the league when it comes to their starting quarterback.
At best, Lance enters the season as the No. 3 quarterback in the NFC West, but that is not saying much given the disaster on the Seattle Seahawks' roster after the Russell Wilson trade.
The good news for the 49ers is that the Seahawks and Chicago Bears are the first two teams on their regular-season schedule.
San Francisco could work out some of Lance's flaws inside its system against two rebuilding teams before facing the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Rams in Weeks 3 and 4.
In fact, the 49ers could have the edge at quarterback in four of their first six games, but that is not saying much given what is happening in Chicago, Seattle, Carolina and Atlanta.
The 49ers will be at a disadvantage in experience and talent at the position for most of the season starting in Week 7. They need Lance to live up to his first-round expectations in order to compete for a playoff spot in the NFC.
If not, the 49ers could be stuck second-guessing the Lance-over-Garoppolo decision while scrapping for wins during the second half of the season.
Replacing a seven-time Pro Bowl center this late in the offseason is a task no team wants to have on its hands.
The 49ers are in that exact position after Alex Mack announced his retirement after the NFL draft.
San Francisco will likely turn to a few internal candidates who are familiar with the offensive system, but there could still be a mighty drop-off from Mack to Jake Brendel, or whoever takes over the starting role.
The 49ers staff prepared for Mack's potential retirement for most of the offseason, so a contingency plan was already in place when he hung up his cleats.
That does not make the task of introducing a new starting quarterback any easier. In fact, it could be more difficult with a first-time starting center entering the fold as well.
If anything, Lance and Brendel, or someone else at center, will have time to build chemistry throughout training camp to be ready for Week 1.
The easy early schedule could help the transition as well, but that is the best-case scenario for Kyle Shanahan and his staff.
There could be growing pains along the way for the new center, and that could not only hurt Lance's development, but it could also impact the blocking for the rushing attack.
The 49ers should be concerned about all the questions in their secondary going into training camp, especially since they play in a division with Cooper Kupp, DeAndre Hopkins and DK Metcalf.
San Francisco brought in Charvarius Ward to be its top cornerback, and it is expected to elevate Talanoa Hufanga to a starting safety role alongside Jimmie Ward.
The 49ers secondary needed a transformation because of injuries that hurt the team in 2021 and departures in free agency.
Ward can be a shut-down corner, but the depth behind him is not as great as the other positions on the defense.
San Francisco has one of the most formidable front sevens in the NFL led by Nick Bosa and Fred Warner. The secondary could elevate its game with Ward in the fold, but he will not be the only player on the field at cornerback and safety.
The 49ers need to use training camp to figure out which players will occupy the No. 2 cornerback and nickelback roles to start alongside Ward and Hufanga in Week 1.
As was noted with the offense, the light early season schedule could help the secondary get into a rhythm and gain confidence, but there is always a chance that dysfunction rules that part of the field and the 49ers have to rely on their front seven to win games with their pressure and run defense.