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

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.

SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 16: Tight end Jimmy Graham #88 of the Seattle Seahawks can't hold on to a pass against the defense of cornerback Robert Alford #23 of the Atlanta Falcons at CenturyLink Field on October 16, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

SEATTLE, WA – OCTOBER 16: Tight end Jimmy Graham #88 of the Seattle Seahawks can’t hold on to a pass against the defense of cornerback Robert Alford #23 of the Atlanta Falcons at CenturyLink Field on October 16, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

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.)

ATLANTA FALCONS’ DEPTH CHART

OFFENSE
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
DEFENSE
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
SPECIALISTS
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

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GAME FIVE: Falcons 23, Broncos 16

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Coleman amassed 163 yards to power the offense

Vic Beasley has breakout game with 3.5 sacks

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GAME FOUR: Falcons 48, Panthers 33

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Tweetcap: Falcons 48, Panthers 33

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GAME THREE: Falcons 45, Saints 32

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GAME TWO: Falcons 35, Raiders 28

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JEFF SCHULTZ: Falcons put on offensive show and win

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GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24

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Julio Jones not worried about his ankle injury

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