The Bengals have plans for Mario Alford. Unfortunately for his fans, they may have to wait a while to see those plans play out.
The Bengals fell in love with Alford and his Sonic the Hedgehog speed during WVU’s pro day back in the Spring prior to the NFL Draft. They saw him as a player who could bring the element of stretching the field on offense and taking handoffs from Andy Dalton on end arounds as we saw some during the preseason. They want him to eventually return kickoffs and also see him the heir to Adam Jones’ punt return job.
As the preseason ended, and final cuts around the league were handed out, Alford’s job was safe. He made the final 53-man roster. The Bengals didn’t want to risk waiving him and having another team claim him, nor try to stash him on their practice squad where he could be plucked by other teams around the NFL.
Thus far through four weeks of the season, Alford has been Inactive on game days. He is in that state of flux at the bottom of a roster where a he’s good enough to stay on the Regular Season roster, but not quite ready to take part in a game.
Since the start of the Regular Season, practices are only open to the media for a few minutes each week. Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer informed me they usually only see warmups.
“We see him catch some punts, but that’s it,” Owczarski said of Alford. “Would take a few injuries for him see the field, to be honest.”
The team knew when they drafted him that he would be a bit of a project. Being able to get the experience and teaching during practices and meetings will be of great benefit for Alford in his career.
Many times, it takes injuries for rookies like Alford to see playing time. That may be what it takes for the speedy rookie from WVU to see the field this season.
“A team doesn’t want to get to that point,” Owczarski said, “but if that does occur, the later in the year it happens, he’s more prepared.”