2017-2018 Player Evaluation: Robert Alford

Robert Alford has been the subject of harsh criticism for the past few years and it was still very present this year. Robert Alford has always been questioned as a cornerback throughout the time he’s been in Atlanta. While most of the criticism this year has been towards Trufant, Alford is still not thought of as a good 2nd cornerback. A lot of Falcons fans believe that he’s a handsy guy who is a liability in coverage and commits too many penalties. I love him as a competitor and think he is a good 2nd cornerback and hope he is in Atlanta for a long time

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He had a good year this year as he acheived a 83.3 grade from Pro Football Focus and was on the cusp of “high quality” as designated by PFF. He excelled in the playoffs as well posting a 59.1 passer rating when targeted which was 4th best in the playoffs.

Week 2: Packers

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Alford does really well on this play as he follows the receiver down the sidelines and forces the ball to be thrown perfectly which is a tall order for most quarterbacks. Unfortunately Alford was facing Aaron Rodgers so it was routine for him. One thing he could’ve done towards the tail end of this play is some more hand-fighting but then again he gets called for lots of penalties so you can’t blame him.

Week 3: @ Lions

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This was an extremely well executed rub route which the Lions are notorious for. Hard to cover when running man coverage but Alford does get screwed as he tries to cut inside.

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Something I and many others have criticized Alford on in the past was his ability to defend the deep ball. He has trouble with them as he usually doesn’t have good spacial awareness so he doesn’t force the WR out but he also tends to just lose track of the ball. He defends this deep ball perfectly and prevents a big gain.

Week 4: Bills

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Alford just simply slips here. He falls for the out and up route and crashes on it too hard. Lucky to get away with one but he had some problems earlier in the year with his footwork which could be attributed to the turf.

 

Week 6: Dolphins

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Desmond Trufant reads this well and goes for the tackle and Alford does well to recognize this and stay back in case Trufant does miss the tackle. Trufant does but Alford is flat footed and so gets no momentum. He also went solely for the strip instead of tackling him. That was a problem a lot of the year with the defense but Alford has had that mentality for his whole career in that he goes for the strip rather than the tackle.

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Robert Alford is our best corner when it comes to defending slants. He has wonderful recognition of a WRs movement and has excellent timing. He showcases both here as he stops his backpedal when he notices Landry change something to indicate a slant. He showcases his timing here as he cuts on the ball but doesn’t do it to early so he doesn’t get called. Wonderful execution by Alford.

Week 7: @ Patriots

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Alford needs to work on his tackling no matter what this off-season. On this play he does two things glaringly wrong. First he doesn’t attack the ball carrier so allows him to get about 5 yards before he even makes a play on the ball. The second thing he does wrong is avoid contact. It’s an abysmal effort by Alford to avoid contact and let the runner through.

Week 8: @ Jets

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This is just unfortunate. Alford has had hard times with go routes but he plays this route absolutely perfectly. He remains physical and has great hand fighting. He does extremely well as well to locate the ball which he had troubles with earlier this year. The one thing he could’ve done better was stick his hand out at the end but at the end it’s just a great throw and catch.

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Yet another example of Alford’s ability to anticipate slants. He does well to remain on the hip of the receiver but also a great job to read the QBs eyes and cut underneath the route to make a play on the ball. Alford also has nice awareness on this play to realize that Allen is behind him and so he can gamble on the play.

 

Week 9: @ Panthers

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Alford’s closing speed is something else. He originally gets beat a little on the out route but he does well keeping close and reading Cam’s eyes so he can break on the ball and use his left hand to prevent the completion.

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Alford usually has trouble when undersized but he does well here. He might be undersized, but he uses his physicality to counter it. Earns the pass breakup with his right hand.

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This is the same play but this is a good angle to show his physicality and how he broke up the pass. This was, up to this point, his best game of the year.

Week 10: Cowboys

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One of Alford’s main problems, as I stated earlier, is his footwork. Cole Beasley is a great route runner but Alford turns his hips looking for the slant/crossing route by Beasley and gets caught with his poor footwork. Luckily, Dak misses him but Alford needs to avoid getting turned around like that if he wants to compete with great route runners.

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Alford is so good at playing slants. He was initially caught off balance by the footwork from Dez Bryant but Alford does extremely well to keep close, keep a hand on the back without pulling, and jump the route to prevent the completion.

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Robert Alford still has issues tracking these go routes. This specific route has haunted him his whole career. At the beginning of the play, Alford gets caught up grabbing/hand checking instead of getting in position to make a play on the ball. Alford needs to get physical at the line of scrimmage rather than give him free release and get caught up grabbing 15 yards downfield (should have been penalized). Although he has improved overall, he’s still panicking instead of trusting his technique. Another point regarding this play is that Alford and Trufant both play up a lot, however they have a tendency to not get their hands on the WR and jam them at the line which allows for a lot of the go routes to go for big gains against the Falcons. To be fair this was a great throw and great catch but there were some things Alford needed to improve on in this play.

 

Week 12: Buccaneers

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This is one of the worst games of the season for Alford. He does poor on this play because when Evans uses his double step on the comeback route, Alford gets turned around. Footwork is really something he needs to work on.

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Evans really messed with Alford this game. Evans fakes the outside step, goes inside, and then comes back. Alford can’t keep up and it’s mainly due to his poor footwork once again. Right when Evans fakes the outside step, Alford turns his hips and it’s all over after that.

Week 13: Vikings

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After making an abysmal effort at tackling vs. the Patriots, Alford does well here to fake the move inside and make the tackle on the outside. One thing I wish he did better on this play though would be to wrap up instead of just hitting with the shoulder.

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Same play but it’s a great play to see from a different angle as it shows the hesitation move by Alford for the 3rd down stop.

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After a rough game against Tampa, Alford responded well. On this particular play, Alford doesn’t give Diggs any room and comes up with the huge stop. This whole year, Alford had some trouble with great route runners, which Diggs is, but he does extremely well to jam Diggs at the line, remain physical throughout, and jump on the route. Keenum only targeted Alford one more time after this.

Week 15: @ Bucs

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Alford was beat by Evans all year. On this play, he is on the bottom covering Evans and while Evans does his hard steps, Alford bites and immediately he’s left in the dust. Alford gets a little too aggressive sometimes but I can understand it here as he has a safety over top. It’s unfortunate though because a lot of the time Alford doesn’t have a security blanket yet still jumps on routes.

Week 16: @ Saints

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Michael Thomas is a great route runner and the way to stifle a great route runner is to be physical. Alford does well here to not buy Thomas’ head fakes and to stay right on him. One thing he could do on this play better is jamming Thomas at the line but overall, it’s great physicality.

Week 17: Panthers

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I don’t blame Alford entirely for this play. It’s an RPO call and Cam is one of the best at selling it. Alford simply doesn’t react fast enough to cover the slant by Funchess. An alternate view is below as well.

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Alford needs to take less steps backwards here especially since it’s in the end zone.

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Now this is partially Poole’s fault but it can also be Alford’s fault (bottom of your screen). He doesn’t need to follow the vertical deep route by the outermost receiver. Poole doesn’t need to jump but Alford didn’t help by following the deep route.

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Alford initially is caught on this play because he drops too deep on a simple curl route. If Newton had seen Olsen earlier he would’ve gotten the easy yards. Alford, after initially getting caught, does a wonderful job to closed on Olsen and get his hand in there. It’s very impressive as well, given his penalty history, that he managed to avoid a penalty and prevent the catch.

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This was one of the last plays of the game but Alford did well. He did well this game, especially on this play, at reading Newton’s eyes and jumping on routes.

Wild Card Weekend: @ Rams

If any questions as to whether he could perform on a high level weren’t already put to rest, this game should have. Alford finished the game with a 85.8 PFF grade. He was thrown at eight times and allowed two catches for 17 yards as well as having two pass breakups.

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This play shows Alford’s ability to adjust and prevent the completion. There’s a lot of hand-fighting during the play but Watkins does push off a little bit. Its great that Alford turns his head and puts a hand out and swats the ball away so there is no chance of a tipped ball.

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Alford gets behind on this route  but does a wonderful job to accelerate and cut off the pass. Another great aspect of this play is that when Kupp runs to the sideline, Alford watches the QB, tracks his eyes, and cut off the pass. Alford impressive 3.gif

The last play is when the Rams are at Atlanta’s 49 in the 4th quarter down by 13. The Rams like to go for the deep pass play and Mcvay saw something so he decided to go for it. Thankfully, Alford was there and prevented the comeback from happening. Watkins gets inside position which is a problem a lot of the time for Alford as he is a smaller corner. Alford does well to us Watkins left shoulder as a spring to get Alford high up to prevent Watkins from catching it and most likely scoring.

Divisional Round: @ Eagles

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This is one of the few plays in the playoffs where Robert Alford actually got beat. Alford, earlier in his career, was criticized for being a little too physical. That has manifested almost every year in his penalty counts. It’s seen in this play as Alford gets too close and too physical early with a larger receiver and gets drawn in. Jefferey draws him in and cuts and leaves Alford in the dust for an easy reception.

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Grade: B+

Alford has been criticized a lot for most of his career and I think he put a few of the criticisms to rest this year. Alford played well in coverage most of the year but he does have a few things he needs to work on. First of all, he needs to work on his footwork as a lot of the time his hips got turned the wrong way and he got beat a few times purely because of his poor footwork. The second thing he needs to work on is his physicality. Alford has shown physicality this year but a few times he was a little too physical and got flagged. He also got scared of being too physical some times and so allowed route runners a free route without Alford trying to jam them at the line of scrimmage. I love Trufant but this year, Robert Alford was Atlanta’s best corner.

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