Trufant picked Sherman’s brain at Pro Bowl

Desmond Trufant’s trip to his first Pro Bowl was a fruitful and instructive one.

While relaxing in Hawaii and preparing for the NFL’s all-star game, Trufant, the Falcons’ starting left cornerback, had the opportunity to pick Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman’s brain.

Under former Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, the Falcons play the same scheme that spawned Sherman and helped make him one of the league’s top cornerbacks.

“He watched what Richard did on a daily basis,” Falcons senior secondary coach Marquand Manuel said. “How he prepared and all of the small things that you look for and how you always help someone out in this scheme.”

The Falcons have noticed a new and more confident Trufant, seemingly rejuvenated by the Pro Bowl experience.

“It’s like night and day out there,” Trufant said. “There’s no thinking out there.”

The Falcons are counting on Trufant to continue to make strides in 2016.

“We’ve worked on him not being a pass-breakup guy; be a guy who now picks those balls off,” Manuel said. “What we call those 50-50 balls, meaning that now the ball is not just a (pass breakup) it’s (an interception) and we’re making it 100. He’s been in a lot of positions over the past two years where he could have intercepted a lot of balls, but he’s batting it down.”

Falcons (defensive) passing-game coordinator Jerome Henderson, the only new member on Quinn’s coaching staff heading into his second season, has a daunting task.

With stable quarterback situations in the NFC South, Henderson must coordinate the pass defense to contend with New Orleans’ Drew Brees, Carolina’s Cam Newton and the emerging Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay.

“It is a big challenge,” Henderson said. “This is a very tough division when you look at defending the pass.”

While the Falcons are figuring out who’ll be the right cornerback from among Robert Alford, Jalen Collins and Akeem King, Henderson knows they are set at left cornerback with Trufant.

“I remember studying him (in preparation for the draft), and I thought that he was one of the most competitive people in that draft,” Henderson said. “That was the thing that jumped off the tape when you watched him. There’s something in his DNA that allows him to compete, fight, scratch and claw. He has that mentality that I’m never going to lose, and that’s what you love in a corner.”

Trufant, who believes the Falcons’ pass defense will be much improved, has shared the tips, tendencies and calls he received from Sherman with his secondary mates.

“We know how teams are going to attack us and things like that,” Trufant said. “We are playing a lot faster. I’m very excited.”

Trufant, who was taken in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, is set for his fourth season with the Falcons. With the team picking up his fifth-year contract extension, he clearly is in the Falcons’ long-term plans.

Manuel has seen some additional growth in Trufant.

“When he came back, the leadership part of it, he accepted it now,” Manuel said. “It’s hard when anybody comes in and he’s had success already doing one thing. When a new staff comes in and it’s different, he had to learn something new.

“He was a Pro Bowl-caliber corner who most people talk about as a shutdown guy in the old scheme. Why am I going to change what I do. He took the onus as a leader to do that. To me, that was awesome.”