Robert Alford was drafted by Atlanta with the 60th overall pick in the 2013 draft. The Falcons selected Desmond Trufant with their first round pick that same year. Both of the cornerbacks became starters in their rookie seasons combining for one of the worst secondaries in the league. While Trufant impressed early in his career, Alford’s transition was not as easy. At 5 feet 10 inches and 190 pounds coming out of college, there were some concerns regarding him dealing with elite receivers out wide. However, he showed throughout his first two seasons that he has the physical abilities to compete with the best wide receivers in the NFL. But he also had his fair share of games in which he was targeted and picked apart.
The best part about Alford’s game is his amazing ball skills. Alford has great awareness when the ball is in the air and has the ability to go up and make a play on the ball. He had 2 interceptions in his rookie season followed up by 3 in his sophomore season. As the defense as whole continues to improve, Alford will be given more an more opportunities to make aggressive plays when the balls in the air. On Sunday, we saw just that.
Alford picked off Washington’s Kirk Cousins not once, but twice. The first came with just over 5 minutes to go in the first half. Cousins was looking for Pierre Garcon deep down the field, as Alford intercepted it and returned it 17 yards into Washington territory. Alford was tested deep again in the fourth quarter, and was called for pass interference in the end zone. The play set the Redskins up at the 1-yard line, where Matt Jones punched it in the endzone to take the lead.
Alford could be seen on the sideline frustrated, as secondary coach Marquand Manuel attempted to calm him down. But like Alford has done throughout his career, he was able to bounce back quickly. Before the Atlanta defense took the field for the first possession of overtime, Desmond Trufant told Alford, “he was going to make a big play to end the game.” Alford did not disappoint. The Redskins offense was approaching midfield when Cousins dropped back under pressure and floated the ball to the near sideline. Alford came up with an easy interception and took it 59 yards to the house to end the game in style.
Alford has put together back to back terrific performances. He has yet to live up to the expectations of a second round selection, but he has improved monumentally under Quinn. As Quinn continues to add to the defense, Alford will play a huge role in it, and expect him only get better with the changes.