If there’s one thing that NFL scouts love, it’s bloodlines. It has helped multiple players get drafted earlier than expected, such as former Oregon Duck and current Philadelphia Eagle Casey Matthews going in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, and it could do the same for Washington Huskies cornerback Desmond Trufant in April.
Trufant has two older brothers in the pros, with the oldest being Marcus Trufant of the Seattle Seahawks and the other Isaiah Trufant of the New York Jets. Marcus has had a long and successful career while Isaiah is only a few years into his. Now, Desmond is entering the league, and he appears to have the talent that most teams seek at the cornerback position.
He’s physical, quick-footed, has quality recovery speed, and the ideal size at nearly six-feet tall. This makes Trufant the complete package as far as passing the eye test, but there’s other questions about the projected first round selection, namely his technique.
Technique is generally assumed to be something that can be coached up at the professional level, but that’s not always the case for various reasons. One reason is that some cornerbacks aren’t able to apply the teaching to the field because the game is much faster than at the college level. Another reason is that they lack patience in allowing routes to develop. This happens because they want to get a leg up on the receiver, so they will fall for sudden moves — such as a misleading jab step at the line of scrimmage — and get beat over the top.
The latter is exactly what happens to Trufant at times. He has a strong tendency to open his hips up at a hint of movement by the wide receiver. As a result, he finds himself trailing receivers and in trouble vertically.
Here’s one instance against Utah. He was lined up in the field side (wide) while straight across from the receiver in press-man position. At the snap, the receiver made a series of quick moves to the right before stemming vertically and coming back to the left. When the receiver made the move to the right, Trufant immediately flipped his hips open.
Because Trufant opened his hips up too early, he was out of position to jam and re-route the receiver, who is preparing to run vertically. He should have slid his feet outside and mirrored the receiver’s steps instead of selling out completely.
To compound the problem, Trufant looked back for the ball too early. Even though he’s coached to look back when shoulder-to-shoulder with the receiver, he does it too early here because the receiver is not breaking off his route at this point, and he’s not looking back for the ball.
As a result, Trufant falls behind and is beaten vertically when the receiver further separates with speed. This is why it’s vital that a cornerback doesn’t look back early for the ball because he’ll almost always lose track of the receiver and fall a couple of steps behind in coverage.
Trufant’s technical issues aren’t likely to prevent him from being a first round pick, and they might not prevent him from being a quality NFL player either once he gets more coaching and cleans it up.
The Huskies defensive back has shown that he’s studious and can impress both mentally and physically, but he needs to improve in the finer points of his craft. In college, he sometimes relied on his recovery speed and athleticism (he has somewhat stiff hips though), which didn’t always work. In the pros he won’t be able to do that, as we’ve seen with cornerbacks who have tried that approach in past years (Antonio Cromartie, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, etc.).
His goal should be to improve his technique and patience, so that he can have a long and productive career like his oldest brother Marcus.