Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert Alford broke his wrist right before Thanksgiving last season. The Falcons had just beaten the Panthers, jumping into first place in the NFC South. Alford was expected to miss 2-4 weeks, but in mid-December, the team opted for a surgical repair. He landed on injured reserve and that was the end of his 2014 campaign.
While Alford is now healthy, most pundits think Dan Quinn will move him inside. With all the talk about converting Dez Southward to cornerback and the Falcons' decision to draft LSU product Jalen Collins in the second round of the NFL Draft, Alford is suddenly guaranteed nothing. With OTAs kicking off this weekend, Alford must seize on the opportunities he gets. Because as Vaughn McClure pointed out earlier today, it's only uphill from here.
It will be interesting to see if Quinn continues to praise Alford's efforts on the outside as opposed to moving him inside to cover the slot as a nickelback. Rookie cornerback Jalen Collins' recovery from foot surgery along with banged up converted free safety Dez Southward should give Alford more time to prove he belongs outside, even if his size (5-foot-10, 186 pounds) says otherwise.
Competition is never a bad thing, and to be sure, our cornerback corps suddenly looks competent at worst. That's a reality I can live with; but the window for Alford to hold onto that outside spot is narrowing by the day.
The teaser title of this article is a little misleading. Alford can certainly thrive and help this team as the slot cornerback, but if backed into a corner, I'd bet that isn't his preference. I'd bet he wants to remain outside. And to do that, he's got to take advantage of the absence of Collins and Southward.