With an Atlanta Falcons defense that finished dead last in the NFL in terms of yards allowed in 2014, it becomes difficult to honor any one particular player as a standout. But as was the case with the most valuable player on offense, one player clearly rises to the top and it’s really a no-brainer. That of course is none other than cornerback Desmond Trufant.
Trufant was also the choice at midseason and there really was nobody that came close to emerging in the second half of 2014 that could have potentially challenged him. This tweet made during the Falcons’ Week 12 loss to the Cleveland Browns really perfectly summed up this year’s Falcons defense:
This defense is Desmond Trufant and 10 dudes stealing money from the team.
— Matt (@FalcoholicMatt) November 23, 2014
If there were any Falcon defenders that deserve at least the slightest tip of the cap for their play this past year, it has to go to veteran players like Jonathan Babineaux, Dwight Lowery, Kroy Biermann and Osi Umenyiora for their perseverance down the stretch. Babineaux would probably get my vote for the second-most consistent defender besides Trufant on the field this past season. Lowery, Biermann and Umenyiora all seemed to play better after the bye week than they did over the first half of the season. Trufant’s partner at cornerback, Robert Alford, also deserves some credit for his solid play early in the season. But a wrist injury caused him to miss the final month of the season.
But at the end of the day, it was Trufant and only him. After a strong finish to his rookie season a year ago, Trufant easily picked up where he left off in 2014. In fact, the only negative that one can say of Trufant’s performance this past year was how many dropped interceptions he seemed to have through the early part of the season.
But it wasn’t long before those drops stopped and Trufant nabbed three picks over the final six games of the season. And when Trufant wasn’t stealing opposing passes, he was often breaking them up. He finished the season with 16 passes broken up and only had two games where he did not garner at least one deflection.
In the second half of the season, the Falcons also began to use Trufant more as a “shadow” corner, following the opposing team’s top receiver. While this led to more instances where Trufant got beat, he certainly handled the challenge extremely well. Should Trufant manage to find a way to even top his 2014 performance in future years, he’ll be in the conversation as one of the elite cornerbacks in the NFL. His play this past year showed that the gap between him and those players that do find themselves atop the cornerback position isn’t that large.