Atlanta Falcons: Desmond Trufant Returning to Elite Status

Desmond Trufant was once a top 10 NFL cornerback, but an injury in 2016 changed everything. It has been a long road, but his play this season shows he is poised to reclaim his spot as a top corner.

Desmond Trufant got his Atlanta Falcons career off to a rousing start. He was arguably one of the league’s top cornerbacks in his first three seasons.

Pro Football Focus certainly backs this argument, giving him grades of 82.8 and 81.4 in the first two years of his career. Coverage wise PFF awarded Trufant with grades of 82.5 and 79.0. These grades ranked Trufant among the top 10 at the cornerback position.

Following his third season in 2015, Desmond Trufant was named to his first and only NFL Pro Bowl. He seemed to be ascending on a clear path, towards being one of the undisputed best cornerbacks in the league.

However, everything changed for Desmond Trufant in 2016. During his ninth game of the season, Trufant suffered a torn pectoral muscle, ending his 2016 campaign. This caused him to miss the Atlanta Falcons Super Bowl run. He desperately needed, as we all know the outcome of the game.

Trufant return from injury in 2017 however, he was not the same dominant player as position. He graded in the mid-seventies overall and in the low seventies in coverage, for a top ten Atlanta Falcons defense.

During the 2018 season, Desmond saw his production drop even more. He graded in the high sixties in both overall defense and coverage.

This caused many fans to become disgruntled with Trufant, particularly due to his high salary of nearly 14 million dollars per year. Some fans even questioned if Desmond Trufant should have been sent packing, as his former position mate Robert Alford was.

Yet the Atlanta Falcons have been patient with the 29-year-old defensive back, rather than moving on. It is early in the 2019 season but as of now, that patience appears to be paying off in a big way.

So far Desmond Trufant has been targeted only five times, which is a testament to how sticky he has been in coverage. Incredibly he has only allowed one catch for six yards on those targets. That is only a 20 percent completion rate. Amazingly quarterbacks are posting a rating of zero when targeting Desmond Trufant.

What’s even more incredible is Trufant already has two interceptions on the season, both coming this week against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football. Trufant who has never been known for having good hands is on Target to shut to shatter his career-high of three interceptions in 2014.

So far this season, Desmond Trufant has been awarded Pro Football Focus grades of 78.3 overall and 79.7 in coverage. These grades are much more in line with the production he provided, in the first three seasons of his career.

In my opinion, Trufant was the MVP of this week’s triumph over the Philadelphia Eagles. He had every right to be bold and brash as many NFL cornerbacks are after a phenomenal performance.

However true to the brotherhood, Trufant did not give himself credit for his fantastic play. Instead, he credited the Atlanta Falcons defensive line for generating a plethora of pressure.

The Atlanta Falcons are still dangerously thin at the cornerback position. Isaiah Oliver is still learning on the job and Damontae Kazee is not playing at a nearly as high level as a slot cornerback, as he did at free safety last season. Rookie fourth-round draft pick Kendall Sheffield has also struggled in coverage, early in his NFL career.

Despite the Atlanta Falcons lack of depth at the position, not having to be concerned about the team’s number one cornerback, will do wonders for this team’s defense. Being able to rely on Trufant covering one on one, will allow free safety Rico Allen to focus on helping the other defensive backs on the team.

Prior to this week’s game, I mentioned that the Atlanta Falcons run defense would be key to gaining a victory. That certainly turned out to be the case, as the team held Philadelphia to just 2.3 yards per carrying on 21 rushing attempts. This allowed the Atlanta Falcons pass rush to tee off on Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.

If the Atlanta Falcons run defense can continue to replicate this week’s performance, the pass rush can generate similar pressure and Desmond Trufant continues his climb back to top cornerback status, the Atlanta Falcons defense will return to their 2017 position. That position is a top ten defense.

For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, subscribe to PFF’s EDGE or ELITE subscriptions at ProFootballFocus.com.

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