- Vaughn McClure, ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter
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Trufant, named to the Pro Football Writers Association's all-rookie team on Tuesday, has the talent and confidence to live up to those lofty expectations. But in 2014, he will be tested repeatedly by some of the league's top receivers.
Trufant discussed the challenges ahead next season, with probable matchups against Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, Josh Gordon, Antonio Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Vincent Jackson, Brandon Marshall, and Alshon Jeffery. Fitzgerald was the only one in the group not to surpass 1,000 receiving yards this past season.
"That's what this league is about, going against the best every week,'' Trufant said. "I'm looking forward to it. I didn't even know it was going to be like that, with all those players. So I better be ready for that. But it's just going to make me better. And I'm a competitor. I love the competition. I'm going to be ready.''
Detroit's Johnson and Cincinnati's Green might be a different level than the others based on their size and speed. Johnson stands 6-foot-5 and ran the 40 in 4.35 seconds at the NFL scouting combine back in 2007. The 6-4 Green ran a 4.5.
"You just have to be physical with them,'' said the 6-foot, 190-pound Trufant. "You can't be intimidated by their skills. I have to look at what I'm good at and what I can do to slow them down. You have to be physical, patient and just confident.
"You can't back off because of what they've got. I'm definitely just going to be confident and just do what I've been doing.''
It will be interesting to see if Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan decides to have Trufant shadow the best receiver from each team in '14, although the coaches have a lot of faith in fellow rookie cornerback Robert Alford as well. Maybe Trufant can follow in the same path as Darrelle Revis, arguably the best shutdown corner in the league when healthy.
"I'm going to do whatever they want me to do,'' Trufant said. "But I do want to be that shutdown, that lockdown corner. That's what I work for every day.
"I've studied Revis. Just his patience and his strength at the line of scrimmage, that's what really throws the timing off with the quarterback and receivers. If you can be patience and get your hands on guys and reroute them and things like that, it helps. And that's what he's really good at.''
When asked which receiver he thought was the best in the league, Trufant paused for a moment.
"In the league? I would say Calvin or A.J. Green, Fitzgerald,'' Trufant said. "There are a lot of good guys. I haven't faced everybody yet. So next year, I'll probably have a better idea. But I would say those guys, definitely.''
Receivers around the league are well aware of Trufant's talent. Carolina receiver Steve Smith offered high praise of the rookie after the Panthers defeated the Falcons back in November.
Pro Football Focus named Trufant its defensive rookie of the year after he finished with 73 tackles, two interceptions, one forced fumble, a fumble recovery and 17 passes defensed.
So does Trufant believe he can become an elite cornerback in the NFL?
"Definitely,'' he said. "That's what I work for. Nobody plays the game to be average. I feel like I'm not too far. Coach [Mike] Smith always talks about the inches from making a play or not making a play. So, I'm just going to continue to work and come back better next year.''
Expectations for Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant seem to grow by the day, and he's sure to be under the spotlight even more next season.Trufant, named to the Pro Football Writers Association's all-rookie team on Tuesday, has the talent and confidence to live up to those lofty expectations.