When fans think of the elite corners in the NFL, big names are often thrown around. Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman are always at the top of the list and names such as Joe Haden and Patrick Peterson get mentioned, as well. One name that is not always discussed but is just as deserving is Atlanta Falcons corner Desmond Trufant.
Trufant comes from an NFL family, having two brothers that played in the league. Despite that lineage, the quiet veteran goes unnoticed far too often on a Falcons defense that has been poor over the last two seasons. The 6’0” corner has shown the ability to cover nearly every receiver he is lined up against, regardless of size.
Trufant has excellent footwork as well as fluid movement in his hips and upper body. His vision is excellent and he can often see and react to plays faster than anyone else. This allows him to either be matched up in man coverage (directly shadowing an opponent) or play zone coverage (defending an area of the field) and be successful at both. He can stay with opposing receivers for longer than most corners because his great feet and hips prevent him from being fooled by a receiver’s move.
He is also a strong defender against the run, a task that many players at his position struggle with. Trufant can get off blocks quickly and is aggressive as a tackler. This is an asset to any defense and if not for Trufant, the Falcons defense would have been a lot uglier than it was last season.
Under new head coach Dan Quinn, formerly the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator, Trufant will be asked to be the elite shutdown corner on the Falcons. Given these skills, it is a role he will excel in.
The young star only has five career interceptions, which is due to two reasons. First, opposing quarterbacks do not throw at him very often. This is a testament to his coverage ability but also that the rest of the Falcons’ defense has been subpar. The second reason is one of the few weaknesses in Trufant’s game: his hands. When it comes to deflecting passes or jamming receivers, Trufant has above average use of his hands and uses that to his advantage. However, he has had several dropped interceptions. This is an area that can be improved and if Trufant can improve his catching ability his interception numbers could five or more in a season, depending on when quarterbacks decide to stop throwing at him.
In Week 1 of 2015, Trufant picked up right where he left off in 2014. Against the Eagles, Trufant lined up against several different pass catchers including Jordan Matthews.
The play illustrated below against Matthews is a great example of all of Trufant’s skills. In picture one, which is right as the ball is snapped, Trufant is lined up over the top of Matthews with a nine-yard cushion. After the snap, Trufant tracks Matthews across the field. He stays over the top of Matthews because he has help underneath. The third picture shows Trufant’s excellent break on the ball. He goes from being over the top of Matthews to being in front of him and knocking the ball away faster than Matthews can react. His vision, range, closing speed and overall athleticism are shown on this play.
This week Trufant will have a huge challenge in front of him as the Falcons face the Giants and star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. It is likely that Trufant will be matched up against Beckham for the majority of the game and the success of the Falcons defense will ride largely on that matchup. Beckham is an elite receiver who has superior ball skills and speed. Trufant may have a tough time dealing with someone who has the size and catch radius that Beckham has, but he will likely hold his own. In a weekend full of highly anticipated games, the match-up between Trufant and Beckham may be the best one of all.