49ers Set to Begin ‘Interesting’ Battle for Quarterback Spot

49ers QB Brandon Allen (left) will compete with Josh Dobbs to back up Brock Purdy (right)

Getty 49ers QB Brandon Allen (left) will compete with Josh Dobbs to back up Brock Purdy (right)

The 49ers had a much-anticipated competition to win the No. 2 quarterbacking job a year ago, when the team brought in Sam Darnold to battle with former 2021 No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance for the right to back up starter Brock Purdy. There was much at stake. Darnold was also a former No. 3 overall pick, in 2018, and was seeking to reboot his career while Lance was clinging to his last chance to stick with the that drafted him.

Making the competition all the more compelling was the elbow injury Purdy had suffered in the postseason loss to the Eagles the previous January. It was uncertain just how long Purdy would be out after having surgery, and the feeling was that the 49ers quarterback backup would get a few starts early in the year while Purdy recovered.

In the end, of course, the competition was not all that dramatic. Darnold won the job and Lance was traded to the Cowboys in August. Purdy was ready for the start of the season and went on to an MVP-caliber season. Darnold got just one start, in a meaningless Week 18 game against the Rams.

A year later, though, the 49ers backup job is again a contest. And, with OTAs opening in the NFL this week, 49ers beat writer Matt Barrows of The Athletic tabs the competition, now between Josh Dobbs and Brandon Allen one of the “10 Things to Watch,” from the week’s practices.

49ers Have Several Aspects Worth Watching at OTAs

Barrows also cited the presence, or absence, of star receiver Brandon Aiyuk, the state of the nickel corner position, the depth chart at linebacker, who will pair with George Kittle at tight end and what kind of shape Deebo Samuel is in among the aspects of practice worthy of attention.

But everyone loves an old-fashioned QB battle, and even with reduced stakes, the 49ers will have one.

Barrows wrote: “No, it won’t be nearly as intriguing as the Trey Lance-Sam Darnold backup battle from a year ago. Neither Joshua Dobbs nor Brandon Allen is a top-three draft pick, after all. Dobbs was a fourth-round selection in 2017 and Allen was a sixth-rounder in 2016. Both bounced around the league — a lot — before winding up in San Francisco.”

Indeed, neither has been in a starring role before. Each has barely been in a starting role, in fact. Allen turns 32 in September and in eight NFL seasons, much of which was spent toiling on practice squads, he has a total of nine career starts and none since 2021.

Josh Dobbs Has More Recent Starts Than Brandon Allen

Dobbs, though, has a more complete and more recent resume as an NFL starter, as he took over in Arizona last year when Kyler Murray started the season on the injured list. The results were not great—the Cardinals went 1-7 in his starts. But it was a poor team around him, and Dobbs then went to Minnesota in a trade. He was 2-2 as the Vikings starter.

Neither Dobbs nor Allen would be a particularly appetizing option if Purdy got hurt.

Barrows noted, though, that Dobbs would probably have an advantage, even if Allen has familiarity with the 49ers system.

“Dobbs is the more intriguing of the two given how well he played after finally getting a chance to start last season. Allen, however, is more well-versed in the offense. Just as it was a year ago, it will be interesting to see how Shanahan divvies up the quarterback snaps this offseason,” he wrote.

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