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Confident Altlanta Falcons Cornerbacks Feel Ready To Take On Anyone

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Maybe the question was a little unfair for a guy just three years into his NFL career, but Robert Alford's response spoke volumes about his mentality.

The Atlanta Falcons cornerback was asked which three wide receivers he thinks would be the toughest to cover, outside of teammate Julio Jones.

"To me, I feel like I can cover anybody," Alford said. "I never have any doubt that I can cover anybody. I mean, they've got some nice receivers as far as Calvin Johnson. Then I'd have to say Julio. Man, I don't know anybody else. I never go out there feeling like I can't cover somebody."

Fellow Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant also didn't want to give opposing receivers too much credit. But Trufant did offer up a complete top three.

"Antonio Brown (Steelers) is pretty good," Trufant said. "I haven't played Calvin (Johnson) yet. We played the Lions, but he was hurt that game. I would think him, though. And I think Victor Cruz (Giants) is pretty good, too.

"There are a lot of others guys. But honestly, I feel like any matchup, I'm ready for. I look at it like I'm going to win, regardless."

The swagger and confidence Trufant and Alford bring to the field was evident through the first two days of training camp. Trufant picked off a Matt Ryan pass intended for Jones Saturday, while Alford was mad at himself for deflecting a ball rather than getting an interception on Day 1.

With new Falcons coach Dan Quinn's defense emphasizing more press coverage and physicality, Trufant and Alford appear more than capable of elevating their games. Not to mention the addition of lanky rookie Jalen Collins, who could push for a starting role and give the Falcons a fierce trio.

The Falcons need all three to be effective, particularly against some of the big, talented receivers they'll face this season. In Week 3, it will be 6-foot-2, 220-pound Dez Bryant of Dallas. In NFC South play, they'll have to contend with Tampa Bay's Mike Evans (6-5, 231) and Vincent Jackson (6-5, 230), Carolina's Kelvin Benjamin (6-5, 245) and Devin Funchess (6-4, 225), and New Orleans' Marques Colston (6-4, 225).

Trufant talked about the keys to competing against such big targets.

"Honestly, it's really more just about your technique," Trufant said. "The bigger guys, you can get your hands on them more. Typically, the bigger receivers, we're usually faster than them. So we've got to use our feet, use our speed, and make sure they don't get in positions where they can box us out and use their bodies. Just staying in front of them and using your hands, pretty much.

"It really doesn't matter if they're big or small. If you're not in position, you're not going to be able to make the play."

It certainly helps when you compete against a guy the caliber of Jones on a daily basis. Quinn mentioned after June minicamp how Alford's competitiveness against Jones really jumped out as an example of how he wants his cornerbacks to compete against big receivers.

"The game comes easy because of what we go against every day," Trufant said of facing Jones. "You're not going to see too many guys like Julio and Roddy (White). They've been doing it a long time, and they're (two) of the best. They make it way easier in the game because we go so hard out here."

For Trufant, he's already proved the ability to consistently compete at an elite level. That's why analysts label him a rising star. That's why he was asked to shadow top receivers such as Steve Smith, Josh Gordon and Benjamin his first two seasons. His biggest issue early was dropping balls he should have intercepted.

For Alford, he understand he needs to play with more discipline in order to thrive. He was flagged four times for pass interference last season and three times for defensive holding in 10 games before breaking his wrist. To help solve the problem, Quinn has officials at every practice so Alford and others know when they're committing penalties.

"The only thing that was holding me down last year was the penalties, in my eyes," Alford said. "I feel like with the new coaches, with Coach Q and Coach M (Marquand Manuel), Coach Rich (Smith) at the defensive coordinator, and Coach (Raheem) Morris, they've all helped me out. They're trying to get me better."

Quinn's Cover 3 emphasis, with three deep and four underneath, allows the cornerbacks to play man-coverage technique in a zone scheme. If the Falcons manage to finally generate pressure up front, it should only make life easier for Trufant, Alford and the rest of the defensive backfield.

Regardless of what happens up front, they'll be ready to compete against the likes of DeSean Jackson, T.Y. Hilton, Brandin Cooks -- anyone.

"Everybody has a weakness," Alford said. "It's your job to watch as much film as you can and then go out there and put it to work on the field. Then you trust in your coaches and trust in your technique."


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