FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- When Falcons Dan Quinn held his first team meeting the night prior to first day of 2017 AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp, Atlanta's head coach set out a challenge for his team: Can the Falcons be the best attacking team in football?
Albeit we are just three practices in, it looks as if the team is doing everything in their power to ensure they meet the challenge – especially on defense.
The Falcons' defense is fast, physical and on the attack at all times and there's one player whose leading by example in every way in cornerback Robert Alford.
Alford has been all over the field collecting interceptions and making plays. Alford has always possessed the speed and ball skills necessary to cover the elite receivers he's tasked with, but to the eye, something appears to be different about Alford, and it's a good different.
When asked what about Alford is standing out to him so far, Quinn was quick to respond by saying the cornerback is "stronger than he's been in a while."
"He's really fit," Quinn said. "His weight is up. He's using that strength at the line of scrimmage you can feel that confidence that comes with a little extra strength, a little extra weight with the same speed. More than anything, you feel the physical presence with him."
Alford's game has improved every year he's been in the league and the Falcons rewarded him for that this year when they signed him to a four-year contract extension.
With Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant missing half of the season with an injury, Alford took on the role as Atlanta's No. 1 cornerback. The 28-year-old recorded a career-best 19 passes defensed in the 2016 season and posted 58 tackles and two interceptions.
And with the talent that surrounds Alford heading into his fifth season, there's reason to believe he could be primed for his best season yet.
He and the rest of the unit know their potential, and they're ready to put the work in to take the next step.
"We try to come out here and compete," Alford said. "We try to push each other. We feel like we're the best in the NFL so we have to practice like the best each and every day."