Despite being teammates for much of the 2022 NFL season, Christian McCaffrey and Trey Lance never actually shared the field together as members of the San Francisco 49ers, with the former arriving five weeks after the latter suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2.
Without the baseline of OTAs, training camp, the preseason, and Lance’s 84 regular season offensive snaps to impact his opinion, McCaffrey has been impressed with what he’s seen from the North Dakota State product through their first spring together, as he explained to Rich Eisen in an appearance on the broadcaster’s eponymous show.
“I didn’t get to play with Trey last year, but from what I’ve seen so far, Trey has been great. He’s been awesome,” McCaffrey said via 49ers WebZone. “And obviously, I’ve played with Sam, and I know what Sam can do, and seeing all the things that he’s been doing this OTAs, too. I think, for us, it’s nice knowing that we have three great options.”
The first true rushing quarterback McCaffrey has shared the field with since Cam Newton in 2019, the All-Pro running back has the potential to form a very intriguing rushing attack under noted run game guru Kyle Shanahan. Whether the duo actually play together this fall, however, remains to be seen, as Brock Purdy appears to still be the leader in the clubhouse to start in 2023 when fully healthy.
Kyle Shanahan Hopes to Have Brock Purdy Back for Week 1
After widely being considered the leader in the clubhouse to start in 2023 despite suffering a UCL injury in the NFC Championship Game, some felt that, because the Iowa State quarterback didn’t have surgery until March, that may no longer be the case.
Fortunately, on May 23rd, Shanahan told reporters that he hopes to have Purdy back sooner than later, maybe even in time for Week 1.
“Yeah, it’s not really a moving target. It’s that only God knows,” Shanahan said via 49ers Webzone. “And it’s all estimates, so it depends what quote people have got for me. But we’re hoping for Week 1, and I feel pretty optimistic about that.
“That’s what we’re hoping for—he’ll be ready to play in Week 1, and usually, that doesn’t mean that’s the day he comes back. Usually, you got to come before that to make that goal, and that’s kind of the goal we’re hoping for, and don’t have any reason to think differently.”
While Purdy being cleared to play in Week 1 and actually taking the field are two very different things, adding the wrinkle of Purdy being able to play in September instead of, say, November will make the offseason all the more interesting, as Lance or Sam Darnold would need to definitively win the spot to keep the NFL on FOX 2022 Rookie of the Year on the bench.
McCaffrey Isn’t the San Francisco 49ers’ QB Evaluator
Elsewhere in his interview on the “Rich Eisen Show,” the show’s host tried to get a good quote out of McCaffrey about which quarterback he would like to play with most this fall for his seventh professional season. While McCaffrey didn’t bite, he did answer the question nonetheless and noted that it’s his job to get open, not to evaluate quarterback throwing mechanics.
“You just go about your business,” McCaffrey told Eisen. “For me, no matter who the quarterback is, I have to get open. I’m not thinking about the quarterback. I’m thinking about getting open, hitting the right holes, doing my job. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter.
“And I think everybody has that mentality. It’s do your job, do it at the highest level. I’m not a quarterback evaluator. People ask me all the time, how’s the quarterback? I have no idea. I don’t know mechanics. I have no idea how to evaluate quarterbacks. But what I do know is all three of them are amazing. All three of them are great options.”
Deep down, McCaffrey probably does have a preference as to which quarterback he would like to play with, but considering Shanahan’s scheme and the sheer wealth of targets he earned in 2022, it’s safe to say he’ll be a featured part of the 49ers’ offense regardless.