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Is This The Year For Robert Alford?

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For third year cornerback Robert Alford, there is no time like the present. The talent is there; the confidence is there. The one quality Alford is missing is consistency.

Since his first NFL game in which he made a very impressive interception against Drew Brees and the Saints, weve seen what he can do. Hes promising. Even as a small school CB hailing from Southeastern Louisiana, theres no doubt that Alford can be a very useful weapon for the Falcons defense.

With the hiring of head coach Dan Quinn, the implementation of the 4-3 under defense, and the drafting of rookie cornerback Jalen Collins, the writings on the wall that either Alford is going to have a position change to possibly free safety or a look at the teams primary slot corner.


Alford has the skill set to be a playmaker at free safety, boundary cornerback, or slot corner. He possesses the ball skills to be a free safety, the aggressiveness to play boundary cornerback, and the speed to keep up with slot receivers.

During this offseason, Alford has called upon former safety Ryan Clark to help with his techniques as Alford has a tendency to be grabby and a little to hands on as a corner which led to a lot of defensive holding/pass interference penalties last season. So it shows that Alford knows what his deficiencies are and hes willing to put in the required work to take the next step.

Coming off of season-ending wrist surgery, Alford is fully aware of how important this upcoming season is for him. Last season showed Alford play only ten games due to his wrist injury but total 31 tackles, three interceptions, and 12 passes defensed.

In a recent article by ESPN.coms Vaughn McClure, coach Quinn was quoted as really pleased at what he has seen so far from Alford this offseason:

We would try anybody if we thought it could make the team better at that, Quinn said. He looks so good outside right now. Weve talked about (free safety), but we havent made the decision to do that just because hes really on it just in terms of playing outside.

We know how great fellow third year CB Desmond Trufant is and what he can provide. Collins is currently recovering from offseason foot surgery but once hes 100 percent healthy, he can bring an added dimension to the defense.

Alford can be the wild card in all of this. If he taps in fully to his potential, he can provide Quinn and the Falcons defense a number of options as to how to make this defense


Edited by GATXBOI
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No doubt. But for corner that was in his 2nd year, of course he is going to have some ups and downs. With Tru opposite from him, I can understand why he gets a lot of crap.

for me I look at it like this, if players from other positions can get bashed freely due to overwhelming fan expectations in their first year or two, he should as well. People will say other players should be replaced or not given a shot but when it comes to Alford he's supposed to go untouched. Nah
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for me I look at it like this, if players from other positions can get bashed freely due to overwhelming fan expectations in their first year or two, he should as well. People will say other players should be replaced or not given a shot but when it comes to Alford he's supposed to go untouched. Nah

Oh of course. Anybody can get bashed if they're not doing their jobs. But, I think Alford is going to prove a lot of people wrong this year. I know he is going to get plenty of chances to compete because of Quinn. With a lot mistakes he has also shown a lot of promise.

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Oh of course. Anybody can get bashed if they're not doing their jobs. But, I think Alford is going to prove a lot of people wrong this year. I know he is going to get plenty of chances to compete because of Quinn. With a lot mistakes he has also shown a lot of promise.

I'm not gonna hold my breath on him personally lol. He has the tools but I honestly don't think he's gonna amount to more than a penalty machine. I said he would be a penalty machine last preseason and some guy tried to argue me down for pages. Hopefully he proves that to be wrong
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If his foot were healed tomorrow Collins would not be ready this year. It's good that Alford is working on not holding but he needs to improve playing the ball. That comes only from playing in pads against fierce receivers. That's probably why some see RA as a safety. I think he will start for years.

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When people say a guy is just a slot corner, I question if they know what that really means. Slot corner is probably harder than the outside. First off, you have to be able to maintain both inside and outside leverage since you're in the middle of the field with route variability being wide open. Secondly, you don't have the advantage of playing close to the sideline, so you have to be agile. Thirdly, you're usually playing closer to the line of scrimmage and you're expected to be a strong run defender with outstanding awareness and play recognition since you're replacing a LB who comes out in nickel packages.

Slot receivers aren't just limited to small guys, as Larry Fitz, Brandon Marshall and other big, fast guys line up there a lot so you have to be able to cover both "small and quick" as well as "big and fast" receivers. Tru is the only guy that matches a "slot corner" description. If you would like to refer to Alford as a nickelback(AKA the extra CB that comes in on nickel packages and usually plays the third best receiver or TE) or as the 3rd best corner on the roster in your opinion then that's fine, but saying that a guy can only play in the slot vs on the outside is bogus. A good CB possesses the ability to line up against the best receivers whether it's in the slot or the outside. e.g. Darrelle Revis, Champ Bailey, Deion Sanders

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Here's a good article for anyone wondering what a true "slot corner" means:

Playing man-to-man coverage as a cornerback in the NFL is often described as being left out on an island.

As difficult as that can be, lining up in the slot might be even more challenging.

Instead of being matched up one on one against some of the NFL's greatest athletes, it's as if slot cornerbacks are dropped onto a busy street at rush hour trying to chase receivers while dodging fast-moving cars at the same time.

With receivers able to go either direction without the defender having a sideline to assist on defense and strict limitations on how much contact is allowed to slow a receiver, playing the slot can be an almost impossible task. "I don't want to say you can plug anybody outside, but being an outside corner can be a lot easier," said Raiders cornerback Carlos Rogers, who has played more snaps in the slot the past four seasons than any other player.

"In nickel, you're dealing with the linebackers, you're dealing with the D-line, you're dealing with your corners and your safeties. You can't just throw somebody in there and say, 'Go play nickel.'"

Along with dodging traffic in the middle of the field, the biggest challenge of playing in the slot is not having the sideline as an extra defender.

Jets defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman said outside cornerbacks often don't need to be concerned about out routes based solely on the formation if a receiver lines up too close to the sideline.

"When you're playing in the slot, you can't do that, because he has a lot more room to maneuver you," Thurman said. "That's why it's tough to play in the slot. A lot of players don't like playing in there, because they don't like the space that's there, and they don't have that comfort of the sideline to work with."

The position has become a regular part of many defenses. Once reserved for special sub packages, defenses now use five defensive backs on nearly half the plays. According to STATS, defenses were in nickel 48 percent of the time through Week 9, part of a steady increase over the years to match up with offenses that have replaced the fullback with an extra receiver.

With more and more teams using four receiver sets, defenses often need two players adept at playing in the slot at the same time. This season is on pace for the most passes to be thrown with four wide receivers in the game. In fact, teams have already used four receivers more often in the first half of this season than they did in the entire 2006 campaign.

While slot receivers used to be exclusively small and quick players like Denver's Wes Welker, more teams are mixing things up to create better matchups. Reggie Wayne, Larry Fitzgerald and Brandon Marshall all have run more routes this season as slot receivers than on the outside.

That has led many teams to move a starting cornerback inside when they go to five and six defensive backs, and use a backup on the outside.

Philadelphia saves its top cornerback, Brandon Boykin, almost exclusively for slot duties.

"I can't say enough about him," Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis said. "It's a starting position for us. I know it isn't to you guys, but the nickel spot is a starting position that plays in every game. They dictate what personnel group is in, what we're going to match them with. ... We love what he's giving us and we love what he's bringing."

Teams value the position so much that the 49ers and Broncos drafted players in the first round in Jimmie Ward and Bradley Roby to play in the slot.

Ward has had some struggles as a rookie, most notably when he allowed three touchdown passes against Marshall in Week 2. Roby has had a big impact in Denver, allowing Chris Harris Jr. to move back outside. Roby has enjoyed the challenge.

"It's way easier when you go back outside," Roby said. "Because on the inside they can go either way. You're always thinking about where my help is and who's going to help me and all that stuff. It's a little bit easier on the outside, there's less space to guard and it's a longer throw for the quarterback. In the slot, it's right in front of him."

While some players can succeed both on the inside and outside, the skill sets needed for the two spots are very different. Quickness is at a much higher premium inside than the straight speed often needed to play on the outside.

Instincts and tackling are also needed because defenders on the inside often need to worry about the entire offensive formation rather than just one outside receiver.

"He has to play man to man; he's got to play zone; he has a chance to blitz; he's got to make tackles," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "It really calls for a really diversified athlete that has a good all-around sense, because there's a variety of things that they're asked to do."

Harris said another necessary attribute to succeed in the slot is endurance. Many teams try to tire a cornerback by constantly sending receivers in motion, something Harris doesn't have to worry about as much now that he has moved back outside to make room for Roby.

Harris recalled one game against the Chiefs when he had to chase a receiver in motion on six straight plays at the start of the game.

He finds life a lot simpler on his island.

"I think playing the slot definitely helped me because it's just tougher in there," he said. "And then when you go outside, you're like, 'Man, I don't have to do all this running.'"


Edited by iEmbrace_life
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