This is the eighth of a 10-part, position-by-position series analyzing the Falcons’ roster after their offseason program. Coming Thursday: Safeties. When the Falcons report for training camp on July 26, they’ll have their $68.75 million man, Desmond Trufant, back at left cornerback.
Falcons general manger Thomas Dimitroff made it clear at the team’s No. 1 priority entering the offseason was re-signing left cornerback Desmond Trufant.
Trufant signed a six-year, $68.75 million contract extension in April, just about guaranteeing that he will finish his career with the Falcons.
Defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel believes that Trufant grew as a leader while recovering from his torn pectoral injury last season..
Trufant returned during the team’s mandatory minicamp and appears set to open training camp healthy.
With Trufant, Robert Alford, Brian Poole and Jalen Collins all seasoned now, the Falcons have some options to mix and match their coverages better.
Manuel said all four can play the slot if necessary in the nickel defense. All can play outside, too.
“That’s been the most exciting thing,” Manuel said. “I was explaining that to them. We know what we are going to get. By Tru going out, we’ve taken our game to another level.”
Trufant stayed with the team and helped in the meeting room last season.
“Not only for Trufant in a leadership role, but that was the first time that he was in a leadership role,” Manuel said. “That helped him while being with the team and not being able to play. Tru is a competitor. The ultimate competitor.
“Now, he has to take the leadership role verbally, which now helps him in the room. Now, he can pull up the young guys and say hey, ‘come over here and do this.’”
Manuel has seen the process before when younger defensive backs start to get their footing in the NFL.
“I watched (Richard) Sherman do that,” Manuel said. “I watched Earl (Thomas) do that. I watched Kam (Chancellor) do that. So we are in a nice and blessed spot right now with all of them.”
Collins, who was forced to start down the stretch last season, quietly went about his offseason.
With the return Trufant, the Falcons now have some quality depth at the position.
“That’s the cool part,” Manuel said. “Now you have a guy who can play dime. He can play outside. He has more value to the team.”
Collins slid down the depth chart after he was suspended for the first four games of last season. The former second-round pick from LSU stayed ready until Trufant suffered a torn pectoral injury and was placed on injured reserve.
Collins started the final six games of the regular season and three playoff games. He played 428 defensive snaps (38.3 percent) during the regular season. He compiled 48 tackles, including 10 in the Super Bowl, 12 pass breakups and two interceptions.
The Falcons like to sit in their cover-three zone, but now, because of the newfound depth, have some options.
“We have to understand that we have guys who are able to (pay man-to-man),” Manuel said. “Teams are going to methodically try to score points and do certain things at certain times. We are going to have to mix it up. Mix and match.”
The Falcons also drafted Damontee Kazee in the fifth round of the draft. Also, C.J. Goodwin and Deji Olatoye return.
Here’s a look at the projected depth chart heading into training camp:
WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Taylor Gabriel, 13 Devin Fuller, 15 Nick Williams, 16 Anthony Dable, 87 Deante Burton, 7 Josh Magee
FB 40 Derrick Coleman, 39 Tyler Renew
CB 23 Robert Alford, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 25 Akeem King, 39 Janor Jones, 38 Taylor Reynolds
NB 34 Brian Poole, 33 Blidi-Wreh-Wilson, 27 Damontae Kazee
CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 32 Jalen Collins, 30 Deji Olatoye, 41 Quincy Mauger
S 37 Ricardo Allen, 20 Sharrod Neasman, 35 Marcelis Branch
S 22 Keanu Neal, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 48 Jordan Moore, 49 Deron Washington
K 3 Matt Bryant, 6 Mike Meyer
KO 5 Matt Bosher
P 5 Matt Bosher
KR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy, 13 Devin Fuller, 38 Brian Hill
PR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy, 13 Devin Fuller, 18 Taylor Gabriel
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 5 Matt Bosher
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