The secondary was one of the better parts of the Atlanta Falcons defense last season. The unit was tied for fifth in the league with the New England Patriots with 20 interceptions as a team last season.
But when the Falcons weren't confusing quarterbacks with Mike Nolan's complex coverage schemes, more times than not, they were getting passed on with regularity. The Falcons ranked 23rd in the league last year, giving up 242.6 yards through the air per game.
Some of this can be attributed to not generating enough pressure on the quarterback. If the D-line couldn't get pressure, opposing quarterbacks could wait until the zones broke down to pass at will against Atlanta's secondary.
Part of this was also due to injury. Shut down number one corner Brent Grimes played in only one game last season before being lost for the season due to injury, leaving a gaping hole in the secondary.
The Falcons did the best they could with a secondary that included veteran Asante Samuel, who proved he could still play, Dunta Robinson, William Moore with a breakout season, Thomas Decoud, the pleasant surprise that was Robert McClain, Christopher Owens and Dominique Franks.
Robinson, Grimes and Owens departed via free agency last year, leaving GM Thomas Dimitroff with some holes to fill.
Dimitroff filled those holes in the draft by taking Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, two corner backs, in the first and second round of the NFL draft, respectively. These two will be the future of Atlanta's secondary at corner and could one day provide an answer to Seattle's brutal corner duo of Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner.
The secondary will be young, but it should be improved with these two rookie corners taking the field this season. With the first having the most pressure on him of all.
CORNERBACK DESMOND TRUFANT
If the name Trufant sounds familiar to you, it's because the family has been around the NFL for quite some time. His brother Marcus is also a corner for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and his brother Isaiah is a corner for the New York Jets.
So Trufant has the pedigree, but does he have the skill-set to be a great corner? Trufant was an outstanding player in college and the Falcons rewarded that outstanding play by drafting him in the first round and giving him an eight million dollar rookie contract over four years.
Trufant played regularly in all four years of his college ball at Washington. He was known for being a shut down corner and disrupting passes. While he only had six interceptions in four years, he averaged 12 passes defended a year, including a career high 16 in 2011. He was a first team all PAC 12 selection last year as well.
As we mentioned, this won't be a rookie season in which Trufant will be a special teams player and wait a year or two before becoming a starter. Trufant is expected to start now. With Asante Samuel continuing to age, and with the uncertainty of Robert McClain being able to repeat the success he had last year, the Falcons need Trufant to come in and be the shutdown corner he is capable of being.
During our visit to training camp, Trufant went through a rough initiation. He is going up against two of the toughest receivers in the league in Julio Jones and Roddy White in one on one drills.
While some fans were concerned about Trufant being constantly beaten by White and Jones, if anything, this is good.
Trufant is being put to the test against two of the NFL's best wide outs. This will only make him a better corner back come the beginning of preseason games because he's learning how to defend the best. If he's able to learn from this experience, it will allow him to make the adjustments necessary to be successful in this league.
Look for Trufant to play opposite of CB Asante Samuel as the number two cornerback beginning the season. While Robert McClain could beat him out, Samuel has far more talent and a higher ceiling than McClain. Even if he isn't the number two starter, he will see a lot of playing time. Also look for him to slide into the nickel back position as Mike Nolan is constantly making his players play multiple positions with his intricate defensive schemes.
The Falcons have placed a lot of faith and made a significant investment in Trufant. The pressure is on him to live up to expectations and play immediately.
We will be returning to training camp Monday, August 5th to give another training camp update. If you missed our first one, you can find it here.
What are your thoughts on Desmond Trufant?
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