Losing 22-21 on the road is about as close as you can come to having a successful road trip without actually having one. That’s the kind of trip the Falcons had in Green Bay over the weekend in what was the coldest game played in franchise history. Now that the Falcons are back in town and warmed up, head coach Mike Smith met with the media Monday and discussed the progress of many of his young players, especially some of the rookies on defense that continue to get more and more playing time.
Smith was discussing specifically his two rookie cornerbacks and their progression this season. Sunday saw them both on the field for all of the snaps on the defense, the first time Alford has played all the snaps in a game and just the second time for Trufant. Trufant, however, has played in five games this year where he played in all but one snap.
Smith said the young corners continue to get tons of great experience as the 2013 seasons closes out and he felt comfortable saying neither of them should be considered rookies anymore based on the experiences they’ve gotten this season.
“They’re not rookies any longer,” Smith said. “They’ve got enough snaps under their belt that they’re able to be considered veteran players. They’ve basically seen all that they can see. I think that Desmond Trufant has matured and done a very good job understanding what it takes to play in the NFL and Robert Alford got his really first significant, straight-through playing in the game yesterday. It was good to see him handle that. He made some good plays. There were some learning experiences and there’s going to be.”
Trufant has been on the field for 835 of the possible 877 defensive snaps this season. Sunday’s snap count was by far Alford’s highest and while he’s been on the field for only 404 snaps this year, that is likely to change as the season comes to a close.
Smith mentioned that at some points in the game, his defense had as many as six or seven rookies on the field at the same time. It’s not the first time that’s happened this year, but as the season has progressed, they’ve gotten better. In addition to Alford and Trufant, Zeke Motta came in and played the entire game once Thomas DeCoud left the game with a concussion. Linebackers Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu continue to get the majority of linebacker snaps with Sean Weatherspoon and defensive ends Malliciah Goodman and Stansly Maponga played 35 and 15 snaps.
Motta, playing in his first extended look of the season, had a good game including six tackles and a pass defensed. Smith thought the rookie played well subbing in for DeCoud.
“I thought that Zeke did a nice job,” Smith said. “Zeke had to go in with the injury to Thomas DeCoud and he ended up playing 53 plays. I thought he showed some physicality. He had a couple of really nice tackles, had a pass break up, so it was good to see him get some significant playing time.”
The seven rookies combined for 32 of the team’s 72 tackles on defense on Sunday. Worrilow led the team with 12 and added 1.5 sacks.