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Desmond Trufant profile: Detroit Lions got ‘an all-around good corner’

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Getting to know the Lions new corner

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Remember last Wednesday when the news broke that the Lions were signing Desmond Trufant? It was great. Here’s a legitimate number two corner to pair with your elite All-Pro corner Darius Slay. Even if it would be for just one year, it would have been a heck of a duo.

Then like five minutes later the Lions social media world set on fire when the always outspoken Slay took to Twitter to openly proclaim what we’ve all known for a while but didn’t want to believe. He wanted out of here and he wanted it now. The next day Slay became an Eagle.

So here we are now. The Lions no longer have their top guy in the secondary, but with Trufant they have a pretty dang good consolation prize. The former first-round pick is coming off a season where Pro Football Focus graded him out at 70.3. That’s actually quite higher than Slay’s 56.4. Although the consensus there is that Slay had a down year due to injury and no pass rush. Trufant also grabbed more interceptions than Slay, hauling in four to Slay’s two, and Trufant did it in just nine games.

What’s concerning, though, is the nine games thing. Trufant dealt with multiple injuries in 2019. He had turf toe that caused him to miss four games, and then he broke his forearm in Week 14, ending his season prematurely. Previous to that, Trufant’s injury record has been pretty clean outside of a torn pectoral in 2016. At 30 years old, there’s some cause for concern here.

The good news is my friend Cory Woodroof of The Falcoholic thinks there’s a lot of juice left in Trufant, and that the Lions got themselves a reliable player. We asked him a few questions and here’s what he had to say.

What are your thoughts on Trufant’s time in Atlanta? Why was he let go?

Desmond Trufant spent many seasons as one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the NFL. He was an immediate starter and played like one in his 2013 rookie season, and held down the top cornerback spot for seven seasons. For a spell there, he was one of the least thrown-to corners in the NFL. The word “elite” came up a few times for a minute there. But after he missed nearly the back half of the year in Atlanta’s 2016 NFC title season (yes, that’s all that happened), some wondered if he’d lost a step after.

Trufant’s recent play didn’t qualify him as being one of the best CBs in the NFL, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t one of the better ones. In 2019, he was mightily reliable and had one of his best seasons yet. It makes the decision to release him curious, but his contract was prohibitive for Atlanta. I’d say this was a money decision more than anything. Trufant has a ceiling these days, certainly, but he’s also got a heck of a floor.”

What are his strengths?

“He’s just an all-around good corner. He’s a good tackler, smart, instinctive and can very much be the guy you match up against the top receiving threat you’re going up against. He’s also able to function as a blitzer in certain packages. He’s not going to ever get worked. His traits aren’t elite, and he may never wow you, but if a game goes by and a certain receiver on the opposing team has a quiet day, you’ll know who to thank. He’s subtle and effective.”

What are his weaknesses?

“His hands aren’t the best, but that improved at least somewhat last season when he had a career high for interceptions. He’s not always going to match up well with quickness/speed; his 2018 game against Robby Anderson was one of his worst. But he’s performed well in the slot in the past, so go figure there. He’s not quite the player he was when he came into the league anymore, so teams are more likely to target him. But don’t ever assume, after a down week, that it was all his fault. His flaws aren’t ever as definable or impactful as his strengths.”

What kind of impact can he make with the Lions? Especially after they’ve traded Darius Slay?

“He’s a good CB1. He’s not top-tier anymore, but he’s very much at the front of that second group of NFL corners. The NFC North has some good receivers, certainly, but it’s not the most intimidating passing division in the league, particularly with Aaron Rodgers aging, the Vikings down Stefon Diggs and the Bears hovering uncertainty at the QB position. Trufant can slide into Slay’s spot and give you reliable coverage. He won’t shock the world, but he’ll certainly get the job done. It’s a nice pickup. We’ll miss him in Atlanta, and some of us even wish he had not been cut.”