Last season during OTAs, the Falcons were missing someone who would prove to be highly valuable on defense during the season. First-round pick Desmond Trufant, along with Levine Toilolo, missed all of OTAs because they returned to school to finish their degrees. Both players' PAC-10 schools operate on a quarter system and Trufant and Toilolo couldn't join the Falcons full-time until they were done.
It's hard to imagine what Trufant could have accomplished with all of OTAs under his belt. While he did attend the rookie and veteran minicamps, the OTA sessions surely would have benefitted the corner heading into his rookie season. Trufant turned in a spectacular rookie season and just like that, he's now one of the leaders of the defense.
He returns this season with a focus on more interceptions. While the rookie was near the top of the league in pass deflections last season, he only came down with two interceptions. This season, Truant says the entire defense is focused on collecting more takeaways.
"Turnovers tell pretty much the game," Trufant said. "The more we cause, that's going to put the offense on the field and create energy, so we're definitely focused on that."
This year, fellow second-year corner Robert Alford is set to join Trufant on the edges. Alford started four games last year and should pair up with Trufant to form a nice young cornerback duo. The two have considered the possibility of entering the discussion this year regarding the best CBs in the league.
Trufant saw the field for the second-highest number of snaps on the team last year and was a full participant during OTAs this year in preparation for 2014. He's becoming a key figure on a defense that is coming together and getting younger. In just his second year, he's already taking players under his own wing.
"Obviously it's new for some people, but that's what guys like me, Will Mo (William Moore), or Rocky (Alford) are here for, just to help," Trufant said last week. "If anybody has any questions at all on the defense, we always help each other. We're just going to continue to grow together."
Extra time on the field for a player like Trufant is dangerous for the rest of the league. Without the additional training he could have received during OTAs last year, Trufant studied from a distance and was prepared when camp began, progressively improving. If he can do 2013 without OTAs, what can he do in 2014 with the full complement of training available to him?