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Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Jim O’Neil on Rashard Robinson: “He’ll have a very bright future in this league”

Dec 27, 2016 at 11:39 AM

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San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil met with the media today and one of the topics of discussion was rookie cornerback Rashard Robinson. The defensive player was responsible for sealing the 49ers' win against the Los Angeles Rams with a critical interception of QB Jared Goff to end the game.

O'Neil discussed the 49ers' final defensive play of the game. "We were able to set a trap on that play and the safeties did a really good job disguising pre-snap," he explained. "They showed them middle closed looked, which invited the ball one-on-one coverage on the outside and the way it played out, Rashard had help on the inside so it allowed him to really jump the route. He did a heck of a job. It was a really nice catch on his part. He got both feet inbounds.

"It was a good football play all around. There was some good scheme involved and then, obviously, execution on the players' end."

O'Neil was asked if having a rookie quarterback like Goff, who has not necessarily seen a lot in the NFL, helped Robinson make a play on the ball. "We try to go into every game and obvious passing situations with some (trap plays). We've been close, stealing a lot of balls. Sometimes you set a trap and the ball goes to the other side of the field. We were just fortunate that the ball went where we wanted it to go and we were able to make a play."

49ers DC Lauds Rashard Robinson, DeForest Buckner 

O'Neil spoke a little bit about Robinson's growth since they drafted him. "He's done a really good job each week," he said. "I think I told you guys coming out of the draft, we were really excited about his level one skills. When I say level one, I'm talking about his press-man coverage skills. And just how he's developed. Just his football knowledge, his note-taking ability in the meetings. He works every day on improving how to play off-man coverage. His eye discipline, lowering his target. He still gets his hands up a little high and has some contact into the facemask which we got called a couple of times on Saturday for.

"But he's really grown as the season has gone on. If he keeps going, he'll have a very bright future in this league and he can be a very, very good man coverage corner."

O'Neil explained that confidence has never been an issue with Robinson. "It's good because he's one of those guys – you hate to have to speed guys up," O'Neil said. "He's not one of those guys. You've got to kind of slow him down sometimes. Those are the guys that you like to coach."

What did O'Neil mean by slowing him down? "He's going to go all out on everything that he does," he said. "You'd rather have to pull a guy back than continue, 'Hey, c'mon. Let's go. Shoot your gun here' or 'You can go make a play here.' He's going to go do that."

While Robinson had some issues during his college career at LSU, O'Neil said that he has been outstanding during his time with the 49ers as far as character goes. "When we did the evaluation, it was a pure football evaluation," he said. "I saw him – rating-wise – a lot higher than where he got drafted. Obviously, there were some other things that went into it. Since I've known him and been around him, he's been unbelievable. He loves football and it starts there. When you get a young player that loves football, the rest of it is easy."

Robinson has played in 525 snaps for the 49ers this season. That is third-most among the team's cornerbacks. He has 24 tackles, an interception, and eight passes defended.
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