Falcons first-round draft pick Desmond Trufant completed his graduation work at the University of Washington and participated in OTAs on Tuesday.
Trufant, who’s expected to land the starting right cornerback position, worked with the first unit and made several plays on passes during the non-contact drills. He missed the first six sessions while he completed his college work and final exams.
“It was nice to have Desmond,” Smith said. “His work is done at the University of Washington. He’ll be with us until we finish up in about two weeks with the rookies. It was nice to see him out here, getting caught up with everybody else.”
Tight end Levine Toilolo, the team’s fourth-round pick, finished his course work at Stanford on Tuesday and will be with the team Wednesday, Smith said.
Trufant has caught the eye of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
“He’s an athletic kid, that’s for sure,” Ryan said. “He moves pretty well. That’s probably the thing I noticed most during the one-on-ones.”
Trufant and second-round pick Robert Alford received additional snaps because veteran cornerback Asante Samuel was excused from this OTA session. Alford lined up at right cornerback, and Dominique Franks played nickel cornerback in the slot.
“I think it’s really good for the young guys,” Smith said. “These are guys that we are counting on to contribute this season, and they are getting lots of reps. We knew (Samuel) wasn’t going to be here, but that gives Robert and Desmond an opportunity to get more reps, which they really need.”
Vandy visits: Vanderbilt coach James Franklin and his staff were on hand to meet with the Falcons’ defensive staff. They planned to exchange notes on the read-option offense.
The defense, which struggled at times against the attack last season, worked on defending the offense during the OTA.
Nissley injured: Tight end Adam Nissley, an undrafted free agent from South Forsyth High and Central Florida, suffered an torn ACL last week before being released injured by the Falcons.
Nissley, 6-foot-6 and 267 pounds, was recovering from a torn ACL in the opposite knee that he suffered Aug. 9.
The Falcons signed tight end Anthony Miller to take Nissley’s spot on the roster.
Nissley redshirted in 2007 and went on to play four seasons for Central Florida. He was used mostly as a blocking tight end, but caught 38 passes for 465 yards and two touchdowns.
After he was not selected in the NFL draft, Nissley had calls from the New York Giants, New Orleans, Kansas City and the Falcons.
Before the second knee injury, Nissley had worked at the Y, or the blocking, tight end.
Low red-zone: The Falcons, whose last season ended on the 10-yard line against San Francisco in the NFC Championship game, spent part of the OTA working on their inside-the-10 offense.
“Each day it’s kind of a different emphasis,” Ryan said. “Today we worked on some low red (zone) stuff. It’s an area where I felt like we were pretty good last year, but I feel like we can be better. It’s good to get that work this time of the year and work on some of the things we need to do better during the season next year.”
Matthews cross training: With defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux not on hand, Cliff Matthews, who’s bulked up some over the offseason, received some extensive work at defensive tackle.
“He’s probably about close to 10 pounds heavier than he was at the end of the season,” Smith said. “He’s worked extremely hard. … He’s a guy that we are counting on being a part of our rotation.”
Injury update: Weakside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (knee surgery) and strongside linebacker Stephen Nicholas (sports hernia) are now slated to return for the team’s mandatory minicamp, June 18-20. Smith originally thought they might be ready for the end of OTAs, which conclude Friday.
Rookie defensive end Stansly Maponga (ankle surgery) is not expected back until training camp, which is set to start July 25.