Atlanta Falcons Blog

Atlanta Falcons blog by D. Orlando Ledbetter, the pro football and Atlanta Falcons reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Cover 9@9: Alford racking up penalties at alarming rate

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The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter & Noah Coslov talk discuss the Falcons defensive game plan against the Chargers, what if the Falcons and Seahawks were playing again this week and the team's mindset.

Good morning! The Cover 9@9 is a weekly blog of everything you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons, we published 9 items at 9 a.m. each Wednesday morning.

1. THE ALFORD PROJECT. Falcons coach Dan Quinn is showing extreme patience with right cornerback Robert Alford, who’s stacking up penalties at an alarming rate in 2016.

Alford, who's in the final year of his four-year $3.4 million rookie contract, is on pace to amass 21.3 penalties in 2016.

“Not a change at this point,” Quinn said when asked about Alford’s starting status.

Quinn is in love with Alford’s athletic ability and speed to stick to receivers. He apparently believes that defensive back coach Marquand Manuel can succeed in coaching Alford into showing more poise and stop using his hands so much.

“That’s something were (Alford) and I will look at together,” Quinn said.

Alford leads the team in penalties with eight penalties for 110 yards that have led to six first downs for the opposition. Two of his penalties have been declined.

Alford, a second-round pick out of Southeastern Louisiana in 2013, has  been penalized in five of the six games. He played a clean game against New Orleans.

Of the eight penalties, five have been defensive pass interference calls. He’s also had a taunting penalty, unnecessary roughness and an illegal use of hands.

This is not a new problem for Alford.

In 2015 and 2014, he had nine penalties, including four defensive pass interference calls. As a rookie he had seven penalties and two defensive pass interference calls.

Instead of improving from his rookie season, the pass interference calls have increased.

2. COLLINS UPDATE. Cornerback Jalen Collins has been inactive for his first two games back from his four-game suspension for using performing enhancing drugs.

Over the offseason, the Falcons were hoping that Collins would take over the right cornerback spot and they could move Alford inside to nickel back.

Undrafted rookie Brian Poole has played well at nickel back.

Quinn said Collins has been practicing well and will play outside and on special teams. His status will also turn on the seriousness of C.J. Goodwin's hamstring injury.

But it doesn’t sound like Quinn is ready to let Collins compete with Alford for the starting spot, but it will be interesting to see how much patience Quinn, defensive coordinator Richard Smith and Manuel have if the defensive pass interference calls continue to mount.

3. PENALTY CHECK: Left tackle Jake Matthews is second on the team with four penalties. He has a false start, two holdings and one illegal use of the hands.

4. OVERALL PENALTY CHECK. The Falcons are the 14th most penalized team in the league with 48 penalties for 402 yards and 15 first downs. Baltimore (59) and Oakland (59) are the most penalized teams in the league.

Los Angeles and Cleveland (57), Washington and Carolina (56), Jacksonville and Chicago (54), Detroit (53), Philadelphia and Buffalo (51), Tennessee and New York Giants (50) and New England (49) all have more penalties than the Falcons.

San Diego, this week’s opponent, has 38 penalties for 237 yards and nine first downs.

5. RYAN ON BIG HITS. Had some fun with some of my followers on Twitter, who kept insisting that quarterback Matt Ryan was getting hit late in the Seattle game.

I thought they were good hits and a sign of Seattle’s pass rush. Michael Cunningham believes that two of them were late hits. He was under pressure on 18 of his 46 dropbacks. He completed 7 of 14 of those passes and was sacked four times.

But we both concluded that the offensive line was mostly responsible and needed to pass protect better. The backs were also victimized in pass protection.

“When you play on the road, as a quarterback, you have to prepare yourself for that,” Ryan said. “For me, I don’t worry about that. You just pop back up and go to the next play. That’s always the way I approached it. I don’t think you ever change that.”

You change it with better pass protection. Four sacks and 13 hits is a bad pass-blocking day.

6. FIRST PLACE: The Falcons lead the league in yards per game (441.5), yards per play (6.93), passing yards per play (9.41) and points per game (33.2).

7. IN THE COMMUNITY: The Falcons and the Southeast United Dairy Industry Association, Inc. (SUDIA)  extended $10,000 grant at Sweetwater Middle School of the Gwinnett County Public Schools system to support healthy eating and physical education improvements. The event included football drills hosted by Falcons punter Matt Bosher and Falcons/Southeast Dairy Association support staff.

8. BOSA FEVER: San Diego rookie defensive end Joey Bosa helped the Chargers beat the Denver Broncos last Thursday. Here are some Bosa highlights.

9. DEPTH CHART: Falcons linebackers De’Vondre Campbell (ankle) and Deion Jones (ankle) are ready to return to the starting lineup.

Paul Worrilow (groin) returned to practice last week and should be ready to play against San Diego.

(The team calls it an ‘unofficial’ depth chart. But if they are releasing it, for our purposes that makes it pretty official.)



WR 11 Julio Jones, 16 Justin Hardy, 14 Eric Weems

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 76 Tom Compton

LG 67 Andy Levitre, 68 Mike Person

C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland

RG 65 Chris Chester, 71 Wes Schweitzer

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 76 Tom Compton

TE 83 Jacob Tamme, 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Levine Toilolo, 82 Joshua Perkins

WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 19 Aldrick Robinson, 18 Taylor Gabriel

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub

RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman

FB 42 Patrick DiMarco


DE 50 Brooks Reed, 99 Adrian Clayborn, 93 Dwight Freeney

DT 95 Jonathan Babineaux, 91Courtney Upshaw

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 91 Courtney Upshaw

DE 94 Tyson Jackson, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman

LB 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 41 Philip Wheeler

LB 45 Deion Jones, 55 Paul Worrilow, 53 LaRoy Reynolds

LB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 54 A.J. Hawk

CB 23 Robert Alford, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 32 Jalen Collins

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 34 Brian Poole

S 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Robenson Therezie, 30 Sharrod Neasman

S 22 Keanu Neal, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 38 Dashon Goldson


K 3 Matt Bryant

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 26 Tevin Coleman, 14 Eric Weems

PR 14 Eric Weems, 16 Justin Hardy

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher

GAME SIX: Seahawks 26, Falcons 24

5 things we learned from the Falcons loss to the Seahawks

MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons didn't win, but they made one guy believe (me)

MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons got jobbed but did themselves proud

Matt Ryan's turnovers were costly

What Dan Quinn had to say after the 26-24 loss to Seattle

Seattle slows down Falcons' running backs Freeman, Coleman

Ryan Schraeder, offensive line rebounds in second half

Julio Jones: 'It was just a missed call'

What the Falcons had to say after the 26-24 loss to Seattle

What Matt Ryan had to say after the 26-24 loss to Seattle

Richard Sherman non-committal on pass interference non-call

PHOTOS: Falcons at Seahawks in Seattle

GAME FIVE: Falcons 23, Broncos 16

5 things we learned from the Falcons upset of Super Bowl champs

MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons rock a rookie in the Rockies

What Dan Quinn have to say after the win over Denver

Coleman amassed 163 yards to power the offense

Vic Beasley has breakout game with 3.5 sacks

Kemal Ishmael moved to linebacker, led team in tackles

What the Falcons had to say after the win over the Broncos

Photos: Falcons battle the Broncos

GAME FOUR: Falcons 48, Panthers 33

5 things we learned from the Falcons' 48-33 win over the Panthers

Tweetcap: Falcons 48, Panthers 33

Old pro Freeney shows new trick with Falcons

Falcons' rookie Neal holds on vs. Olsen

What Julio Jones had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers

What Dan Quinn had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers

What Matt Ryan had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers

Alford battled; Collins to return

Early view in NFC South isn't what most expected; Falcons on top

GAME THREE: Falcons 45, Saints 32

5 things we learned from the Falcons' 45-32 win over the Saints

Falcons, Saints protest with unity circle before game

REPORT CARD: Falcons earned high marks for drubbing Saints

What Dan Quinn had to say after the 45-32 win over the Saints

What Matt Ryan had to say after the 45-32 win over the Saints

What the Falcons had to say after the 45-32 win over the Saints

Keanu Neal makes strong debut for Falcons

Falcons' Deion Jones runs for glory, not survival, in return home

AJC POWER RANKINGS: Falcons best in NFC South?

GAME TWO: Falcons 35, Raiders 28

5 things we learned from the Falcons' win over the Raiders

Trufant's heads-up play saves the day

Tight ends help to power offense

Weatherspoon plays strong in first start since 2013

Matthews, Schraeder held Mack sack-less

JEFF SCHULTZ: Falcons put on offensive show and win

What Matt Ryan had to say after beating the Raiders

What Dan Quinn had to say after the win over the Raiders

GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24

5 things we learned from the Falcons' loss to the Bucs

No sacks for new-look Falcons pass rush

Julio Jones not worried about his ankle injury

Falcons have a case of the "no-huddle" blues

REPORT CARD: Falcons can't 'gift' opponents 17 points

FILM REVIEW: Beasley missing in action

AJC'S NFL POWER RANKINGS: Where are the Falcons?

Hageman charged is domestic violence case

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.