Quietly Trufant having another Pro Bowl season on an island

When it comes to getting tested, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant has been like one of those honor students who earns an A just for showing up.

Coming off his first Pro Bowl season, the 27-year-old cornerback has spent most of the 2008 season watching teammates get balls thrown in their direction. It’s a testament to both Trufant’s reputation and his ability as a cover man.

This week, Trufant might finally have to get his No. 2 pencil ready.

When the Seahawks host the New England Patriots on Sunday, Trufant is likely to spend most of the afternoon matching up with Pro Bowl receiver Randy Moss. Seattle’s smaller corners — 5-foot-9, 192-pound Josh Wilson, and 5-11, 180-pound Kelly Jennings — have been unable to stay with bigger receivers this season, so Trufant could line up across from the 6-4 Moss as often as the Seahawks can put him there.

“Anytime you’re going against a big-time receiver, it’s going to be a big chore,” Trufant said this week. “It’s never one guy; it’s going to take a team effort to try to contain a guy like that.”

Containment has been what Trufant does best. On the rare occasion that an opposing offense throws his direction, the 5-11, 197-pound cornerback has closed fast and prevented big gains.

But it’s rare that the ball even gets thrown in his direction. As proof, Trufant has had less tackles (nine) over the past three weeks than Wilson did in a Week 11 loss to Arizona (10).

Trufant spent most of last Thursday’s game at Dallas moving around the field to match up with 210-pound Dallas receiver Terrell Owens, much like the cornerback could do with Moss this Sunday.

“It says a lot about him,” safety Brian Russell said of the Seahawks’ strategy of moving Trufant around to match up with an opposing team’s top wideout. “He’s hands-down our No. 1 guy. So you match strength with strength.”

When the Cowboys threw in Trufant’s direction, it rarely resulted in success. Just three short passes were completed against the cornerback, while another resulted in an interception in the end zone — Trufant’s first pick of the season. Owens’s two most impressive receptions came on a circus sideline catch against a zone defense and after lining up in the slot across from linebacker Julian Peterson. Dallas spent a good part of the afternoon testing Wilson or throwing to tight end Jason Witten.

The fact that Trufant’s numbers are down — he has one interception and eight passes defensed this season after posting seven interceptions and 16 passes defensed last year — says more about the sixth-year cornerback’s lack of opportunities than it does a lack of production.

“It varies from week to week,” Trufant said. “You never know what kind of game you’re going to get. I feel like I always have to stay on my toes. I may get tested, I may not, but I’ve always got to be ready.”

Coach Mike Holmgren said Trufant is “as consistent a player as we’ve had on the team this year” but added that Trufant might have a tough time getting back to the Pro Bowl because of the Seahawks’ 2-10 record.

Trufant’s quiet, workmanlike season might go unnoticed by most observers, but those who have been along for the ride can appreciate what the veteran cornerback has done.

“Things like that sometimes get lost in the shuffle when a season’s not going the way you want it to, but he’s extremely talented,” Russell said. “He plays every week and plays well every Sunday. He deserves credit because he goes hard and plays well every week.”

This might be Trufant’s toughest test of the season. Moss caught eight passes for 133 yards against Seattle when Trufant was a rookie in 2003, but the cornerback has improved immensely since that game.

“He’s still a big-time threat,” Trufant said. “He can hurt you deep; he can hurt you all over the field.”

There are those who believe that Trufant will be up to the task.

“He’s stepped up to the challenge every time,” Russell said. “You rely on your talented guys and your stud corners, and we’re happy to have him.”

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