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NFL Draft

Robert Alford’s Injury Could Hamper Cardinals Secondary Again

  • The Draft Network
  • August 25, 2020
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There were a few things Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury was looking forward to when NFL training camp finally began and one of them was the return of cornerback Robert Alford.

Alford missed the entire 2019 season after suffering a broken leg at the end of August. It would have been his Cardinals debut and he would have been a welcomed presence in their secondary. 

Last season, Arizona had one of the worst passing defenses. The team gave up nearly 282 passing yards per game; only the Detroit Lions were worse, but not by much. It was a stark contrast to Arizona’s 2018 numbers when it gave up the fourth-fewest passing yards per game (204) and why Alford’s services were needed. It was also why Kingsbury was excited to have him back in the fold.

“He has been a very productive, tough, competitive player in this league and with what [defensive coordinator Vance Joseph] wants to run schematically, I want to see how he's moving around,” Kingsbury told reporters, via Sports Illustrated, almost two weeks ago. “We're pulling for him because he did put in so much work throughout the offseason.”

Unfortunately, that won’t come to fruition. In the time that has passed since Kingsbury addressed the media in mid-August, Alford succumbed to another season-ending injury. It was just days after the August 12 interview that Alford tore his pectoral muscle and was ruled out for the 2020 season. Kingsbury’s tone quickly changed. The coach, now somber, has to again envision a defense without the fifth-year starting corner. 

“No one works harder,” Kingsbury said, via the team’s website, after the news of Alford’s injury broke. “The physical way he plays at corner, that's what we wanted.

“He's everything you want in your organization, great leader, great juice, great energy. He worked his ass off to get back and everybody is heartbroken for him.”

Alford came to Arizona by way of Atlanta, where he earned the starting job in 2015. He was playing opposite Desmond Trufant, who also came out of the 2013 NFL Draft class. Alford stayed in that role after suffering a broken wrist in 2014 and a 2015 groin injury. He only missed two games since the 2015 season and has recorded 65 pass breakups in that timespan. He was released from the Falcons after six seasons and quickly found a new home with the Cardinals. 

Arizona greatly missed his services last season and it showed across the board. The Cardinals were also without Patrick Peterson for six weeks after he violated the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy. The defense never recovered from these absences. Arizona was last in yards allowed per game (402) and had the second-most touchdown receptions against (38). 

The Cardinals have to once again adjust to not having their prized 2019 free-agent addition in the lineup. Byron Murphy is currently slated to take over Alford’s role. However, this isn’t where Arizona wanted Murphy. The second-year corner played on the outside last season and will have to delay his move into the slot as the Cardinals planned. 

Arizona can’t afford to have its secondary chewed up like last season. Murphy will need to get more comfortable in this role after being burned multiple times last season, but the Cardinals will likely continue their growing pains in the secondary waiting for a healthy Alford. 

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