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Posts tagged with "Robert Alford"

This team is so locked in that every game is just a business trip. That trip, of course, ends with someone forced into a lake of fire and under the watchful eye of an ancient demigod.

Dan Quinn has gone through a lot. In order to win games, he had to make sacrifices to a potentially evil metal falcon’s lake of fire. That has been pretty tough, but not nearly as tough as losing two separate Super Bowls to the New England Patriots thanks to his offensive coordinators.

“Never again,” says Quinn. The sadness that previously haunted him is entirely gone. One more season of sacrifices could lead him to that Lombardi trophy. “Time to crack a few eggs,” says Quinn, as the elevator door opens nearly 500 feet below the new Mercedes Benz Stadium.

“This feels a little weird, Dan, but at least you aren’t taking me into the old indoor training camp building again to push me into the…”

Robert Alford sniffs the air, and knows the strong smell of sulfur means he’s in for trouble. Can he escape the lost souls stuck in the fire? This is a new location for him, so he might run out of his normal cheats.

Alford!!! He’s been a mix of his terrible early 2016 and his fantastic late 2016. Ultimately, too many bad penalties and plays made him the worst player on the field against the Green Bay Packers.

So far, Quinn has sent both Wes Schweitzer and Alford to the lake of fire. 14 more and we are into the playoffs!

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What will the linebacker corps and secondary look like now?

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Since the end of the season, Atlanta has had a lot of shuffling take place amongst their linebackers and defensive backs. They regained Desmond Trufant from his season ending injury, drafted Duke Riley and Damonate Kazee, and most recently received news that Jalen Collins was handed a 10 game suspension by the league.

Jalen Collins played well from the Thursday night bludgeoning against the Buccaneers to the NFC Championship beatdown of the Green Bay Packers, but the Falcons have capable depth behind him. Robert Alford and Trufant will man the top two spots on the cornerback depth chart while Brian Poole handles slot duties in the nickel package. Poole was a gem as an undrafted rookie and he’ll see a large bulk of snaps yet again with Collins under suspension.

According to Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus, the Falcons were in nickel (three cornerbacks) 64% of the time and dime (four cornerbacks) 18% of the time. Over the past few years we’ve heard “nickel is the new base” repeatedly; these numbers give credence to the shift in the way defense has evolved. The were their dime package just as frequently as their traditional base package with three linebackers and two cornerbacks.

Excluding Jalen Collins, here’s how the Falcons’ secondary should sort out by the time the season starts. Notice the versatility in this group, several players will be listed twice.

Note: Don’t get caught up in the order of these players. Just a prediction of who will get snaps where during the offseason. Rookies are noted with an asterisk.

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Fact: NFL training camp is as blissful as a vacation in the Bahamas

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The smell of fresh cut grass. Shiny new equipment. The sound of a freshly picked playlist by one of the coolest coaches in the league.

It’s that time of the year again. On July 26th, the Atlanta Falcons will kick off another edition of their annual Training Camp chronicles.

This one will be quite interesting. As you all know, the team is coming off an historic ending to their season in a particular game that rhymes with “Trooper” and “Goal” back in February and now their sights will be turned to a new season. As training camp kicks off and carry the team through the preseason and right to Week 1 in Chicago, here are several key items to closely monitor during the festivities:

The Right Guard “Competition”

The right guard spot on the offensive line will see a new starter this season as the team transitions from former starter Chris Chester to a trio of possible names. The “favorite” at this point is second-year guard Wes Schweitzer out of San Jose State. Rookie Sean Harlow will have his name in the contest thanks to his run blocking ability that stands out on tape. The versatile and highly valued Ben Garland may see time at the position as well during camp, but as of now, Schweitzer appears to be the starter to begin the season. Assuming things go according to plan.

Rotation In The Secondary

One of the perks of having a coaching mind such as Dan Quinn’s is the development of numerous ideas to attack opposing offenses. Quinn loves versatility (obviously) and now the Falcons secondary has an abundance of depth that will lead to a combination of activity on the backend. The drafting of rookie Damontae Kazee in the fifth round this year gives the Falcons a nice shot of versatility. His ballhawking skills will be utilized at free safety and as a nickel corner this upcoming season. His talent is refined enough for Kazee to be an actual threat to the starting free safety spot, which is manned by veteran Ricardo Allen.

Last year’s nickel corner, Brian Poole, will also see looks at free safety during training camp and if Quinn wanted to get really creative, inserting Robert Alford ther…….ok never mind.

Basically, with the drafting of Kazee, the emergence of Poole, the solid 2016 outing from Allen, the return of corner Desmond Trufant, and improvement from Alford and Jalen Collins, Quinn and defensive coordinator Marquand Manual has several interchangeable parts in the secondary and training camp may see a little experimentation.

The Evolution Of Young Assets

The Falcons defense received a tremendous boost from edge rusher Vic Beasley this past season as he led the league in sacks with 15.5. How he progresses in his third season will be important for the defense and their long-term success. Strong safety Keanu Neal was also an integral piece to the puzzle this past season as he was second on the team in tackles and added five forced fumbles. Running back Tevin Coleman added pounds to his frame this offseason that will aid his inside running and the ability to run through tackles.

The team has several young pillars that are still at a stage in their career where development is expected. Watch some of the young players mentioned above and a few more that can take that next step in the skill set.

Communication On Offense

Unless you’ve been taking an incredibly peaceful nap since the day after the Super Bowl, it is no secret that there is a new offensive coordinator in town by the name of Steve Sarkisian. During his time at the University of Washington, Southern Cal, and Alabama, Sarkisian has carved a respectable reputation in terms of his knowledge of Xs and Os.

Now he has the privilege (or challenge, however you perceive it) to take a record-setting offense, add his flavor, and possibly have very little drop-off from what former coordinator Kyle Shanahan established prior to his departure.

Where it all starts is communication. From Sarkisian to Ryan, Ryan to his offensive constituents, so on and so forth. One underlying factor in the team’s offensive success last season was the component as a whole being on the same page. If Sarkisian can establish cohesion early, it will make the transition that much smoother.

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Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

We’ve talked a lot about the pass rush, a (hopefully) improved run defense, and what that might mean for the Falcons’ efforts to stop other teams. The upshot is that we all expect this unit to improve, which would make this Atlanta team even scarier for the rest of the NFL to face.

For the defense to really break the back of opposing offenses, it would help to snag more turnovers, though the team was quite productive in that regard in 2016. Atlanta had a +5 turnover differential in 2017 and managed to recover 14 fumbles after forcing 17, adding 12 interceptions along the way. That’s very solid, but may just be scratching the surface of what this team can do, particularly if they can apply pressure more frequently on opposing quarterbacks.

For the Falcons to cause more turnovers, they’ll need to be even more aggressive in coverage and get in the faces of QBs to try to cause more interceptions. A team with playmakers like Robert AlfordDeion Jones, and now Damontae Kazee should be able to improve on that 12 interception total. As we all know from experiences both positive and crushing, a pick can turn the tide of a game, even if you’re having an off day and getting gouged. Given the obvious talent on this team, I think we’ll see the total rise.

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Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Jalen Collins was far from perfect down the stretch for the Falcons, but he largely played admirably in the back half of the season and in the playoffs, especially once the Falcons lost Desmond Trufant and truly needed him. We got sustained glimpses of his potential, and he certainly figures to be a useful piece of this secondary throughout the rest of his rookie contract.

The big question, though, is how much he’s going to play in 2017, and where. It’s a very difficult question to answer at the moment.

Start with the fact that Desmond Trufant is returning, and as an elite cornerback in the NFL, he’s not going to come off the field very often. Neither is Robert Alford, who has proven his worth time and time again and just nabbed a contract extension. That leaves Collins fighting for playing time with Brian Poole, who new defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel mentioned first when he talked about nickel backs on this defense.

When Falcons DC Marquand Manuel talked about nickle back options he talked Brian Poole first and the luxury to put Trufant, Alford there too

The Falcons appear to regard Collins as a better fit outside, where he got most of his snaps in 2016, so it’s not a stretch to suggest that he’ll get on the field in place of Poole when Trufant and Alford kick to nickel. I just don’t see that happening all that often, which caps Collins’ potential playing time pretty significantly. He’d need the team to sour on Poole a bit, move Poole to safety, or simply impress the hell out of Manuel and this coaching staff over the summer to earn a more significant role.

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