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Why 49ers CB Rashard Robinson can live up to the hype

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The 49ers defense can take a step forward this year, and Rashard Robinson will be critical.

Across all the SB Nation NFL blogs this week, we’re writing about a player that we are really excited about this season and we’re calling this hype week. The San Francisco 49ers are in the early stages of a rebuilding process, but they have a host of intriguing young players that are critical to getting back on top. I decided to go with second-year cornerback Rashard Robinson.

The defense in general has a lot of intriguing young players. On the defensive line, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, and Solomon Thomas are all key cogs that could make a big impact this season. At linebacker, the return of NaVorro Bowman is big, and Reuben Foster is wildly intriguing. And in the secondary, Jimmie Ward taking over the Earl Thomas role will be fascinating to watch.

However, Robinson brings a couple things that have me most excited. Last season, he flashed a lot of raw talent as a rookie. He had some struggles agains quality receivers, but his confidence did not seem to waver. He got into it with veteran receivers at camp last season as a brash youngster, and given the importance of playing on an island outside, confidence is critical.

The 49ers are moving into more of a press coverage unit, which should result in a lot of the physicality we have seen from the Seattle Seahawks cornerbacks. Robinson has the size and length to get plenty physical with opposing receivers. The 49ers have not had a pure No. 1 lockdown cornerback in some time. Robinson has a lot of work to do to reach that level, but the early signs are good.

The 49ers have invested quite a bit in their defense, and of the two units, it is more likely than the offense to take a sizable step forward in 2017. The pass rush will be critical to that, but if Robinson emerges as a guy who can follow the opposing team’s No. 1 receiver around all day, it would help cover for potential inconsistency in getting to the quarterback.