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Falcons On The Rise: Robert Alford

The second-year cornerback should be a starter in 2013, and with his considerable promise, that could be a boon for the Falcons.

Scott Cunningham

Robert Alford had a fine rookie season. If he had the occasional coverage issue, it was both understandable for a rookie and magnified by the fact that he was playing alongside Desmond Trufant, who was downright great. What interests me now is Alford's future.

It should be bright. Alford put up 40 tackles, two picks and seven passes deflected, taking over late in the season outside for Asante Samuel. He more than held his own against opposing wide receivers, and with the writing on the wall as far as Samuel's impending release goes, he should head into 2014 as the starter opposite Trufant. He's good enough now

What really stands out when you watch tape are Alford's ball skills.

While this is a pre-season interception, it nicely illustrates what Alford does best. He's got excellent athleticism and range and underrated awareness of where a play is going. He's not trying to smother his man, but to stay within a couple of steps and give himself the opportunity to make a play.

This obviously isn't going to work every time out, but as long as Alford has that closing speed and isn't going against an elite receiver, it'll give him a shot to break up passes or pick them off. A cornerback this fast and agile can afford to gamble a little bit, and with Trufant looking as steady as they come on the other side of the field, that gambling could be mighty productive for Alford.

If the Falcons can field an improved pass rush—a big if, as ever—Alford should have more chances to try to force turnovers. I'm extremely bullish on his 2014 outlook. How about you?