Dee Alford “rose to occasion” for Falcons last year, per PFF

NFL: OCT 01 International Series Falcons vs Jaguars

The Falcons decided against bolstering the cornerback room with anything more than depth pieces this offseason, which tells me the coaching staff is high on their current crop of players.

A.J. Terrell will man one boundary position, but the other two are up for grabs. Two of Dee Alford, Mike Hughes, Clark Phillips, Antonio Hamilton, and Kevin King will seize the other boundary position and the starting nickel job.

Following OTAs and ahead of mandatory minicamp, it looks like Alford and Phillips have the inside track, the latter of which is garnering substantial praise from the coaching staff.

Both Falcons’ corners had notable 2023 campaigns. Phillips was thrust into a starting role a little over halfway through the season and had some success but did experience struggles over the final four weeks of the season.

On the flip side, Alford looked good during the early parts of the season but was eventually supplanted by Mike Hughes. Arthur Smith chalked up the demotion to schematic reasons and that Hughes was just doing so well in practice.

With the slates clean, both are vying for starting roles. If you ask Pro Football Focus, Alford not only made the most of his opportunities but he also ‘rose to the occasion.’

Just four qualifying slot cornerbacks were targeted on more than 20% of their snaps, with Alford coming in just below the aforementioned Alontae Taylor. But, unlike the other three, the Falcons’ young cornerback rose to the occasion, generating a 72.2 coverage grade, the highest among the group. Alford showcased sound eyes in coverage, which limited open looks for opposing offenses. He allowed an open look on just 49.1% of his targets, the fourth-lowest rate among qualifying slot cornerbacks, ranking among the likes of Chiefs All-Pro Trent McDuffie.

According to Pro Football Reference, Dee Alford was targeted 62 times and gave up 39 receptions (62.9%) for 401 yards and three scores, good for a 97.6 passer rating.

That doesn’t mean he didn’t make an impression on the new staff. There are always differing opinions on how to best utilize a player, and Raheem Morris could see a path forward for the former CFL star with the Falcons.

With a new staff and scheme, Dee Alford could seize the opportunity put forth. PFF certainly thinks he’s capable.

Photographer: Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire

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