As Desmond Trufant prepares to enter his fourth NFL campaign, the 25-year-old is determined to cement his reputation as one of the league's best pass defenders.
More importantly, though, he's motivated to reach the postseason for the first time in his career. To accomplish that, Atlanta will need to receive steady play from the rest of its defensive backs—especially Robert Alford.
Trufant and Alford—picked in the first and second round of the 2013 draft, respectively—have become one of the league's best cornerback tandems. Both made it into Matt Miller's top 30 NFL CBs, with Trufant, fresh off his first Pro Bowl appearance, locking down the No. 5 spot.
"Me and Robert, that's my guy," Trufant said Tuesday. "We're always working, always pushing each other in the weight room, on the field. That's what we're working for—it's all about respect at the end of the day. And we're definitely working together to being that top tier group."
The Falcons' dynamic duo helped Atlanta's pass defense improve substantially in 2015. Two years ago, Atlanta ranked dead last in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (279.9). Last season, however, the defense finished 18th in that category, surrendering only 242.6 passing yards per game.
Jumping 14 spots in any team statistic is a huge accomplishment. At the same time, Trufant isn't content with being in the middle of the pack.
"Definitely, me and Rob, we push each other to where we we to be," he said. "And I think we're on the right track, but we still have a long way to go."
William Moore's departure has left a hole in the depth chart, and it's left Atlanta without one of its most influential voices, too. Trufant, now a bona fide veteran with a lot of knowledge to shared, knows its his duty to guide the rest of the secondary in his own way.
"I'm not the biggest vocal guy, I'm not a rah-rah type guy—I'm more of a lead by example type of guy," said Trufant. "I talk to the younger guys all the time; I let any new guys we get (know) they can come to me and ask me anything about the defense, or whatever, or about life. I always offer that to the new people that come in. I own that role, because that's my responsibility. I know guys look up to me so I have to be on my game."