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Rashard Robinson had his Brandon Marshall game

The mistakes felt more like things to learn from, as opposed to lacking talent. The question now is whether or not the 49ers rookie cornerback takes what happened and learns from it.

Back in 2014, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Jimmie Ward got a rough welcome to the NFL in Week 2. After a fairly quiet debut against the Dallas Cowboys, Ward was tasked with covering Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall for much of the Week 2 Sunday Night Football matchup. Marshall finished the game with five receptions for 48 yards, but the real damage was the three touchdowns he scored in the red zone over Ward.

While Ward has a lot of work still in front of him, we’ve seen improvement from that game. He is not a shutdown corner, but he is turning into a solid outside cornerback.

This year, Rashard Robinson got his own version of the Brandon Marshall game. Robinson has been playing all season, but in Week 4 he made his starting debut after Jimmie Ward suffered a quadricep strain. His first three games were quite solid. According to Pro Football Focus, in those first three games Robinson gave up six receptions for 55 yards. PFF offered up the following coverage and run defense grades for those first three games.

Week 4: 93.9 coverage, 75.2 run defense
Week 5: 77.7 coverage, 76.6 run defense
Week 6: 46.1 coverage, 76.6 run defense

In Week 7, Jimmie Ward returned, but Robinson still got more snaps. Tramaine Brock played all 75 defensive snaps, Robinson played 61 snaps, and Ward played 40 snaps. Ward left briefly after a big hit on Mike Evans, but was otherwise healthy throughout the game.

Robinson split his time covering several receivers. His primary coverage seemed to be Mike Evans, but he also got some covering Russell Shepard. Ward gave up a touchdown to Evans, and another touchdown to Shepard. He finished the game giving up five receptions on seven targets, for 61 yards and two touchdowns. His coverage grade was 27.2, and his run grade was 37.4.

The receptions given up almost included another touchdown. Mike Evans went deep on him but couldn’t quite get turned around in the end zone in time to catch Jameis Winston’s pass. I’m guessing that was dinged in the low coverage grade.

I went back and took a look at the All-22 from Robinson’s snaps. My knowledge of proper technique is fairly limited, but most of Robinson’s breakdowns in coverage seem like teachable moments. There were a couple instances where the Bucs receiver was able to physically maneuver Robinson, which is always a concern for a cornerback still growing into his body. But a lot of it were things like getting beat with a head fake by Shepard on one touchdown. On the Evans incompletion, Robinson slowed down and Evans quickly blew past him.

I feel like these are situations where the rookie has some learning in front of him. The real thing to assess in this is what he takes from the performance. Does he have the discipline to learn from his mistakes, or will he be stubborn and try and get by on his physical tools? That’s where we find out if he can grow into a consistently solid starting option.