The San Francisco 49ers debuted several rookies on Monday in their defeat of the Los Angeles Rams, and they got solid performances across the board. Pro Football Focus ranked DeForest Buckner and Rashard Robinson in their top ten rookies. Additionally, Ronald Blair had a pressure on his first snap.
We’ll look at all the 49ers rookies, but I wanted to start with Robinson. He got a lot of publicity in the preseason thanks to his incredibly length and athleticism. He’s not a huge guy, but he put on weight this offseason after sitting out the past year and a half with off-field issues in college. The team’s decision to deactivate Chris Davis and Keith Reaser opened up big opportunities for Robinson and Dontae Johnson. And Robinson got plenty of work.
Robinson is listed with 25 snaps in the gamebook, and PFF says 23 of those snaps came in coverage. I looked back on NFL Gamepass, and Robinson was not targeted a single time during the game. They do not have All-22 film yet, so we can’t fully ascertain how his coverage was, but we can look at a few things.
The 49ers mixed him in with both man and zone coverage. We saw some bump-and-run, and we saw him drop into a deep zone coverage. From the basic TV footage he generally looked fine. There were two instances where the Rams could have potentially taken advantage of Robinson, you know, assuming LA had a more competent offense.
On one play in the Rams penultimate drive of the second quarter, Robinson’s receiver ran a crossing route, and it used another Eli Harold almost as a pick on Robinson. It’s possible Robinson and Harold miscommunicated, but either way, there was a bit of an opening. It’s worth noting it was 3rd and 8, and the receiver would have had to gain five or so yards after the catch, so it likely wasn’t the first read on that play anyway.
On another play in the Rams final drive of the second quarter, Robinson was peaking in at the snap. He put one hand up to get the bump, and as the receiver moved around him and Robinson began to turn to run, he slipped and fell. The Rams ran a screen that play, so nothing bad came of it. But it was a footwork miscue by Robinson.
Other than that, everything looked fine for a guy who was not targeted. Head coach Chip Kelly was asked about Robinson’s performance, and the fact that he wasn’t targeted. He initially joked, “They just knew, he’s a rookie out there, he’s the best in the league, so we’re not gonna throw on him.” He followed up just saying he does not think they specifically chose to stay away from him. He concluded by stating that Robinson looked solid in coverage, and if there had been throws, they likely would have been contested.
The 49ers travel to face the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. There is no word yet on the status of Chris Davis and Keith Reaser. If one or both can play this coming week, that could impact Robinson’s snaps. The 49ers first injury report will arrive Wednesday afternoon.