Say what you will about the Falcons, but they aren’t timid. When they see a need, they move to fill it. When they see a chance, they take it. When they err, it’s never on the side of caution.
The Falcons moved up eight spots in Round 1 of the NFL draft Thursday night to take Desmond Trufant, a cornerback from Washington who should fill the biggest need on a defensive not overflowing with playmakers. (Sean Weatherspoon is one, and Asante Samuel is another, and then there’s … well, Desmond Trufant.) By Falcons standards, this was only a modest leap — they famously moved 21 spots to snag Julio Jones in 2011 — but it served to underscore the greater and ever-growing truth.
This is a franchise that has made major strides over the five-plus years that Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith have been in charge, and it’s a franchise that never rests in its efforts to consolidate every gain. The 13-3 season of 2010 was a prelude to the Jones move. The 13-3 season of 2012 prompted this. There’s no guarantee that Trufant will propel the Falcons to a Super Bowl, but his arrival pushes them another step closer. (And let’s note that they fell only 10 yards short in January.)
“When we feel like going after something, we’re not afraid to do,” said Dimitroff, speaking late Thursday night, and the general manager made it clear that this choice was no Plan B. As he seated himself at the podium in the Falcons’ media room, Dimitroff said his team had “our targeted pick in tow.”
It didn’t hurt that Les Snead, now the St. Louis GM and a former Dimitroff assistant, was the guy holding the draft’s 22nd pick, and that’s yet another positive signal. The Falcons are nimble enough and connected enough to find a trade partner when they need to find one, and you don’t get to be that way if the folks who populate your organization are viewed as a bunch of amateurs.
NFL teams make a distinction between No. 1 cornerbacks, the proverbial-but-rare shutdown guys, and No. 2’s. Asked if Trufant can become a No. 1, Dimitroff said: “No question about it. He has legitimate No. 1 ability.”
For a team holding the draft’s 30th pick when the night began, that’s a major haul. Defense in the contemporary NFL is less about stopping someone cold — nobody does that anymore — and more about taking the ball away. Said Smith, the head coach, speaking of Trufant: “He’s a guy that seems to find the football.”
The incumbent Samuel is another such guy, and if Trufant becomes an immediate starter — Smith and Dimitroff indicated he’ll be given every chance — the Falcons would have a matched pair at the most sensitive spots in every defense. With Thomas DeCoud and William Moore, the safeties are pretty set. Could this become the best secondary in Falcons history? Yes, it could.
“He’s got athletic ability and ball skills and the drive to improve,” Dimitroff said of Trufant, but the GM might well have been speaking of the Falcons as a franchise. They’ve got the smarts and the skills and the drive, and they’re relentless in their efforts to get swifter, stronger, better. No, they haven’t won it all yet, but they’re getting closer and closer.
They needed to improve on defense, and they have. (And the draft has two days still to run.) They needed to sustain the momentum that has driven this team from lowly loser to consistent winner, and they did. They needed a big-time cornerback, and they just found one. They needed to make another draft move, and they did it with what has become their customary panache. At such a time we old-school guys ask: “Are these really the Falcons?”
It used to be that every draft offered another opportunity for the Falcons to trip over themselves. This administration doesn’t trip, doesn’t fall. These Falcons keep pushing. These Falcons are a joy to behold.