Sakamoto: 3 Reasons 49ers CB Rashard Robinson Needs To Start Over CB Tramaine Brock


There’s still plenty of football left to be played. 12 regular-season games to be exact. But let’s be honest. This San Francisco 49ers team is not going to the playoffs this year. That’s the truth. They lost their heart and soul on the defensive side of the ball (ILB NaVorro Bowman). They have no wide receiver or quarterback capable of rallying the team back from a double-digit deficit, and their lack of a pass-rush continues to hamper the team on third-downs.

Simply put, this team is in rebuild mode. Which is why now is the time to see what they have with the younger players they drafted.

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If you’ve been following our website, you know that I’ve been extremely high on 49ers rookie fourth-round pick (No. 133) CB Rashard Robinson from the first day of rookie minicamp.

A selection I was highly critical of on Draft Day, as I thought the team should’ve drafted RB Kenneth Dixon, Robinson has since been a nice consolation prize- recording 7 tackles and 3 pass break-ups through his first four games of action.

A tribute to DBC Jeff Hafley who has been working with Shad on his press-corner skills throughout the off-season, it’s no wonder Robinson has endured the rookie success so far.

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So why was I so critical of Robinson coming out? It was due to his lack of functional strength for the position, often being man-handled by bigger receivers. The knock on Robinson coming out of LSU was that despite having elite length for the position, his body analysis in terms of body weight was not up to proto-typical NFL standards. Checking in at 171 at the NFL combine, Robinson told me he had to bulk up to 188 right before the season-opener (read article above). And the extra lean muscle mass has worked in his favor…

For the first time in his young NFL career, Robinson got the starting nod over CB Keith Reaser and played extremely well filling in for DB Jimmie Ward. From breaking up three passes including one potential touchdown with sound fundamentals (placing arm in between numbers of wide receiver) to playing tight man-to-man coverage by staying on hip of receiver in trail mode, Robinson was easily the most fluid 49ers cornerback on the football field.

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The same can’t be said of seventh-year veteran CB Tramaine Brock. The older veteran has seen his number called plenty of times with negative results. The latest was allowing two first-half touchdowns to the Dallas Cowboys wide receivers. That’s not good enough. He is not a rookie. He is a seasoned veteran. He doesn’t get the pass for making the ‘rookie mistake.’ Robinson does. Which is why Robinson should be the starter moving forward.

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I asked 49ers DC Jim O’Neil for his assessment of his rookie fourth-round pick today and O’Neil said the coaching staff was ‘happy with him.’ That’s good to hear but will he overtake T-Brock’s spot once Ward is healthy enough to regain the starting role? That remains to be seen, as O’Neil said Robinson has to fine-tune some of his ‘techniques.’

In a nut shell this may be true. I’ve been closely watching ‘Shad throughout training camp and he does seem to have trouble on those quick-slants, but T-Brock gives up game-changing plays week-in-and-week-out! Below is a breakdown:

Week 2 (Panthers): T-Brock allows 52-yard bomb to WR Ted Ginn Jr.

Week 3 (Seahawks): T-Bock allows 59-yard bomb to WR Doug Baldwin

Week 4 (Cowboys): T-Brock allows two first-half touchdowns to WR Terrance Williams (20-yard) & WR Brice Butler (4-yard)

Sure, Robinson has some growing up to do, but it’s not a huge drop-off in production from a mental standpoint if Brock gives up this type of production. Am I right or nah? The bottom line, Robinson is a hidden gem and it’s time to let the kid shine!

With the 49ers looking to field the best 11 players on the defensive side of the ball, rookie or not, Robinson should be one of those 11. A player who has the best press-cover skills of any 49ers cornerback while recording a team-high 3 pass break-ups in his first NFL start, the time is now to go with what former 49ers HC Jim Harbaugh calls the “hot hand.”

Ryan is the Founder/CEO of, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at or call him at (408) 622-0996.