The Detroit Lions managed to replace cornerback Darius Slay before he was even out the door. They agreed to terms with former Atlanta Falcons corner Desmond Trufant to a two-year deal worth $20 million the night before they dealt Slay over to the Philadelphia Eagles, bringing the veteran in to be the teams new CB1.
Trufant has played all seven of his career NFL seasons for the Falcons. He has played in 97 games, starting every single one of them. The corner has recorded 13 interceptions and 79 passes defended in his career thus far.
Trufant will now be forced to fill the shoes of an elite corner in Detroit and will have to be the one that turns around a defensive backfield that has been terrible in recent years. But does he have what it takes?
Detroit is a team that primarily plays man coverage, and that is where Trufant has been best is his career thus far. His greatest skill in man coverage is his excellent footwork and seamless movements. He does not waste a single step or movement and is always making sure his weight is shifted the right way.
shows great footwork and hip fluidity here to keep with wr when he breaks on route pic.twitter.com/pRgjtrT5V1— mansur (@mansurshaheen) March 27, 2020
Even when he does get beat by the receiver, his instincts and movement is usually good enough to quickly recover and make a play anyways.
diggs manages to get him turned around right off the jump to free himself up for a short reception but trufant is extremely fast to recover pic.twitter.com/25vbG3ZXmT— mansur (@mansurshaheen) March 27, 2020
Trufant is not anywhere near fast enough to regularly keep up with top receivers, but he does find ways to make up for it. He will often start plays where he is forced to play press man coverage by turning around and running downfield instead of backpedaling. This allows him to get downfield a little faster, but does leave him vulnerable.
Smarter receivers will often exploit the fact that Trufant is turned around, and attack his blindside in order to get open in space.
lets aj brown attack his blindspot after he turns his back to the play. doesn't have good recovery speed either and a medium reception turns into a long touchdown pic.twitter.com/nYVGVOtmG2— mansur (@mansurshaheen) March 27, 2020
his lack of speed leads to him often turning his back on the wr right at the snap, putting him at risk to get beat underneath (see the previous vid in this thread). he often gets away with it because he can recover so quickly, though, like he does here pic.twitter.com/bnXbHjbVoF— mansur (@mansurshaheen) March 27, 2020
Trufant is not very strong and is a weak tackler—a rare trait that you would find in a Lions free agent signing. Even when he is around to make the play, he often struggles against bigger, more physical receivers as they regularly box him out to make fairly easy receptions.
great seamless flip of his hips here to get around and put him in position to make a play but just gets bodied by corey davis pic.twitter.com/HDxiOnprt4— mansur (@mansurshaheen) March 27, 2020
trufant gives up inside leverage to michael thomas and just gets beat. not athletic enough or big enough to keep up with him. pic.twitter.com/BN3fR0i5uR— mansur (@mansurshaheen) March 29, 2020
Trufant is a fine corner. He is not particularly good, but he is a serviceable CB1. But on a team whose defensive backfield was among the worst in the league, he is certainly not good enough.
If the Lions draft Jeffrey Okudah out of Ohio State with the third overall pick in the draft—and he becomes the player many hope he would be in year one—then he may not have to be the CB1, and he is a fine second corner for a team to have. Depending on a potential rookie to be a star from day 1 to save your defense is probably not the best plan going forward, though.
It is hard to see the Lions defensive backfield getting much better in 2020, and by replacing Slay with Trufant they may have gotten significantly worse. It may be another long year for the team’s defensive backfield.