Going into the NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons had a goal of focusing on defense. They went out and got two very highly scouted cornerbacks that are expected to immediately elevate the secondary unit that showed inconsistencies last season. Cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford immediately stepped in and made their presence felt during offseason workouts, garnering plenty of praise from veterans and coaches.
Both Trufant and Alford are getting thrown into the fire immediately, practicing against two of the best wide receivers in the league with Julio Jones and Roddy White. Head coach Mike Smith believes that kind of preparation will help the two rookies succeed when the season begins.
"They're going to be getting their training under fire because they're going to be playing against a group of wide receivers that I think are as good as any when you start talking about Julio Jones and Roddy White," Smith said.
Smith said those two rookies stood out immediately when offseason workouts began and both will have every opportunity to earn a starting spot with the team. Smith is hoping the return on the two rookies is very high and the head coach recognizes that their competitive spirit will drive them to the top. After going up against them in practice, Jones echoed Smith's compliments, impressed by what he has seen.
"They don't give up. They give effort. They've got heart and that's one thing you can't teach," Jones said.
The Falcons are built with the veteran leadership to help Trufant and Alford grow into real stars of the league. Trufant has been watching players like Asante Samuel very closely to try and mirror his style. Samuel will be a lock to start on Week 1 with both rookies fighting to start alongside him. With 10 seasons under his belt, Samuel is one of the best corners in the game and Trufant is paying attention to that.
"He's definitely going to be in the Hall of Fame one day," Trufant said. "You can always learn from a guy like that. His instincts are off the charts. He plays the ball so well. I'm going to take whatever I can from him."
Outside of drafting defensive players, the Falcons brought in a few strong veterans that will aid in the leadership of the defense. It is all of these kind of role players that will help the Falcons get back into Super Bowl contention in 2013.