It hasn't been an easy year for the Falcons, and with the harsh realization that the playoffs are out of reach, it means that younger players on both sides of the ball are going to get more opportunities to play. We saw some of this last week with two players that are going to be very important to the Falcons for their future: CB Robert Alford and TE LevineToilolo.
Both rookies have seen action all season, but now are expected to see more and more as the season winds down. Robert Alford in particular, did a great job last weekend when he came in for CB Asante Samuel. He covered his man like a human blanket and he wasn't beaten on a single play. Multiple times, Bills QB EJ Maneul took shots down the field and tried to pick on young Alford, but he covered his man stride for stride, not allowing any separation from himself and whichever receiver he covered. These deep balls fell harmlessly to the turf, as Alford didn't allow his man to come anywhere to close to catching the football.
Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan realizes how important the second round pick out of South Eastern Louisiana is, and will continue to play Alford more than Samuel down the stretch.
Alford had a big play last weekend for the Falcons in which he recovered a fumble and then pitched the ball (as he was being tackled) to fellow rookie CB Desmond Trufant, who tore up the field for a huge gain. This play set up the game winning drive in which the Falcons won 34-31 in OT.
Alford has had a solid season so far with 7 passes defended and a team high two interceptions while serving as the backup to Samuel, and oftentimes playing for the veteran as he has been hampered by injury for much of the year.
The other rookie likely to see more playing time who the Falcons hope will have an impact in the future is rookie TE Levine Toilolo. Toilolo has not played much this year due to the greatness that is Tony Gonzalez, and he is likely to receive far less playing time than Alford is due to the fact that Gonzalez has been highly effective this season.
But the Falcons will give him some chances to make some plays as they did last week on a great leaping grab in which he caught a 12 yard pass for a first down to extend a drive. Toilolo only has 11 receptions this year, but also has two touchdowns.
It's likely that Toilolo will be the man to replace Gonzalez once the legend retires after the season. While the Falcons want to make sure Gonzalez gets his reps in his last season, it's also important for Toilolo to get his chances for the good of the team.
These two will need to be high impact players moving forward, it's important that the Falcons continue to get them the ball.
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