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The Robert Alford debate: Should the corner be benched?

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After another up and down game, we ask if the team should send their number two corner to the bench.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It has been an inconsistent season for contract-year corner Robert Alford. If he's not making a game sealing pick he's probably committing pass interference. Is it bad enough that Dan Quinn should bench him? For the moment, Quinn is saying no.

We present you with both sides and let you decide on the attached poll.

Bench Alford

Matt Chambers

We are in Alford's fourth season but he's still suffering from inconsistency problems. He's possibly Atlanta's most frustrating player right now. Alford can keep pace with just about anyone in the league, but he's been too aggressive and sometimes sloppy. How sloppy? He's tied for most penalties in the leagues, and accounts for just over 17% of Atlanta's penalty yardage. He's second in the league in penalty yardage and is averaging over one penalty per game. He's been called for defensive pass interference (5), unnecessary roughness (1), and illegal use of hands (1). For comparison purposes, Desmond Trufant has two penalties.

I think it is clear that Alford should at least be sent to the bench on Sunday. A team's second corner can gamble a bit more but these numbers are nuts. Quinn should send a message to Alford that there is an actual competition for the number two spot.

With it very unlikely the Falcons will be able to afford Alford next season will so many other upcoming free agents, they should see what they have in Jalen Collins. The Falcons need to know if Collins has the potential to replace Alford or if they need to make additions in the offseason. What better time to check on Collins than in the middle of Alford's terrible stretch?

Don't Bench Alford

Dave Choate

I remember a time, not so long ago now, that many Falcons fans were adamant that Robert Alford would turn out to be better than Desmond Trufant. That stance didn't last very long--though it lurks on the fringes of the Internet like some star-eating monster from outer space--but it makes the position we find ourselves in today kind of bizarre.

There's a fairly significant portion of the fanbase that is convinced that Alford is not good, despite ample evidence to the contrary. Alford was shaky his rookie season and had poor stretches in his second, but since then he's consistently shown himself to be a quality, athletic cornerback capable of taking team's second receivers out of the game for long stretches. The fact that he's targeted so frequently with Trufant opposite him means there are more opportunities for him to make mistakes, and he is emphatically not Trufant. Few are.

The upshot, though, is that Alford's penalties have come to define him. They're boneheaded and obnoxious, I'll readily admit, but Alford still authors plenty of pass breakups, makes aggressive plays on the ball, and does a generally nice job of taking his man out of the game. It's going to be enough to earn him a nice contract next year, likely somewhere other than Atlanta, and it makes calling for his job (even on a temporary basis) kind of counterproductive. Let's just say that Jalen Collins and Brian Poole are not yet ready to step in an approximate the job Alford does, penalties or not.

The Falcons can and should work with Alford to cut down on these penalties, even if they're always going to be a part of his game at age 28. They shouldn't bench him and hurt the team, though.