It's impossible to deny Desmond Trufant's physical talent. In two professional seasons, the University of Washington alum has displayed the kind of quickness and coverage ability seldom found in the NFL—and by doing so has established himself as a true No. 1 cornerback.
In addition to the athleticism, the ball skills, the speed, Trufant has proven to be one of the more cerebral guys in Atlanta's locker room. And the new coaching staff has noticed.
"I'm more impressed with Trufant above the neck than anything," assistant head coach Raheem Morris said. "What he brings to the game, how smart he is, how detailed he is about his work, how good he wants to become. He has a great bloodline. I love being around the guy more than the actual player."
A high football I.Q. obviously helps when transitioning to a new system. Trufant will have to adjust to a heavy dose of press coverage — Atlanta's CBs will press roughly 95 percent of the time, according to secondary coach Marquand Manuel — and being able to change styles is more of a mental exercise than anything.
The Atlanta Falcons headed into the final week of organized team activities before minicamp on Tuesday in Flowery Branch. Falcons alumni were in attendance and circled up with the team at the end of workouts.
So far, he seems to be up to the task. In fact, this defense may be a better fit for him than the one he learned upon joining the Falcons.
"You could say that," Trufant said. "I feel I can fit into any scheme, but I love what we've got going here. We play aggressive, get hands on guys. They always want us to go after the ball so I couldn't ask for (anything) else. They just want us to stay on top, no seams, no posts, no big plays. Let them complete the checkdowns, but no explosive plays. Every call they want us to go after the ball, so that's what we're going to do."
"We're asking him to play a brand new technique," Manuel said. "From that standpoint (the question is), how do I get better? Daily question. I told him it's about the competition with oneself. It's not what the media says, it's not what another player says — it's about the inner competitiveness that makes you great. That's my challenge."
Trufant is taking this challenge to heart. While plenty of fans, journalists and even players engage in heated cornerback debates, the 24-year-old is tuning out the noise and focusing on his own game.
"I know I haven't reached where I want to go, but at the same time, I know I'm a good player," he added. "I'm just working every day, trying to be the best. If they're not saying I'm the best, I'm not really listening to them."
No longer a little-known commodity, Trufant is in position to become a premier corner, one who can single-handily take Atlanta's defense to the next level. Morris believes that will happen sooner than later.
"I think he's already in the process of doing it," Morris said. "He's locked in his work, he's going about his business. He's competing every single day. And that's how you become great. You don't become great all of the sudden when a big game shows up. You become great with your daily preparation, how you go out there and approach your work.
"The genius is always in the simplicity of football. (Trufant) can understand it better than anybody else can."