One of the strangest vendettas that Falcons fans have had this season is their war against Desmond Trufant. Trufant has been one of the better corners in the league over the past few years, earning a massive contract extension in the offseason.
This isn’t an issue solely involving Falcons fans, to be fair. I think when people primarily only watch one team (nothing wrong with that, they tend to lose the context of how the players on their team compare to other players around the league.
Through the first four games of the season, Trufant has been playing stellar football yet again. Bleacher Report’s Ian Wharton charts how cornerbacks fare in coverage to assign a numerical value to their performance. Here’s what Wharton had to say about Trufant’s performance so far:
“For the subjective numbers, I have him charted on 35 man coverage snaps (taking out screens, throwaways and any passes where he his assignment was never a threat). He's been within one-yard of the receiver throughout the apex of the route 25 times, (25 wins) and loss 10 times, for a win rate of 72%, which would be a top-10 score every year in the last 4 I've done this. In 2015 he had a 77% win rate for me and that 77% number was 2nd best in the league. So he's definitely playing at a high level.”
Trufant’s presence has helped the Falcons improve their pass defense this season. Last season, Atlanta ranked 19th in Adjusted Net Yards Per Attempt (ANY/A) allowing 6.3 adjusted net yards per attempt. Through four games this season, that number has soared to 5.7 ANY/A, good for 13th in the league.
Pro Football Focus also has Trufant grading well. His 84.2 grade scores well on a relative scale with the highest possible grade being 100.0.
Football Outsiders charts cornerback success as well and Trufant is grading well there too. He’s allowed just 4.6 yards per reception in passes that come into his coverage including a stifling .1 yards after the catch.
The tape backs up these numbers too, Trufant is playing great football right now. He’s one of the best corners in the league when it comes to minimizing potential yards after the catch.
Trufant is a physical corner that get a little grabby at times, but that physicality helps him routinely break up passes. Watch here has he battles with Kenny Golladay to the sideline. He’s physical with the rookie, but not enough to draw flag. This is fantastic cornerback play.
Where Trufant really shines is the short game. His elite athleticism allows him to easily switch positions and recover ground quickly on short routes.
Trufant also has the only interception on the season for the Falcons (though, the team has dropped or missed a handful of interceptions through four weeks). Trufant’s interception was a blown play by Green Bay, but good players capitalize on mistakes made by the opposing teams.
Trufant is a cornerstone for the Falcons’ defense. By any objective measure he’s been a top 5-10 cornerback in the league this season and is leading Atlanta’s rise towards an upper-echelon pass defense. He brushed off the rust from last season’s injury fairly quickly and should continue to put the clamps on opposing offenses for the rest of the season.
Give Trufant his due. He’s playing well and certainly living up to the hefty price tag placed on him a few months ago.