I thought Eagles defensive back Nolan Carroll was the Birds best cornerback last year, now after recovering from an ankle surgery he’s battling for a starting job with former Bills cornerback Ron Brooks. As far as I’m concerned, he’s still the best cornerback on this football team.
When I’m out at their practices, it comes through clearly to me that he’s their most consistent cornerback. The interception on Thursday shows us that he’s growing in the position. I’m hearing more confidence from him to the point where he’s going to be taking more and more chances to make big plays. That’s one of the reasons I think the Eagles should start Carroll at the right cornerback position.
It would also allow Brooks to focus more on playing the nickel spot. In today’s NFL, the nickel position is just about as much of a starting spot as left and right cornerback. Nickel backs are on the field nearly 70% of the plays now and they’re on the field for the most important plays in the game on third down.
Back to Carroll, he is a complete corner, who is big enough to be a sure tackler. He’s almost as good of a tackler as the safeties. Carroll has got the size and strength to get physical with wide outs, which is an ability that I think goes well with this “Wide Nine” defense. He’s able to jam the wide out and delay his release for a second or two, while Fletcher Cox, Benny Logan and company are getting to the quarterback.
Carroll maybe the team’s fastest cornerback and he has shown us a number of times that he has the speed to run with the fastest receivers in the league. This versatility, along with the growing confidence I talked about, makes Carroll the best corner on the football team.
The Birds starting left corner Leodis McKelvin is savvy, smart and competitive cornerback, but he’s not as big or as fast as Carroll. I think McKelvin will do a good job, but he doesn’t have the consistency or potential I’ve seen in Carroll. I think this could be a break out year for Carroll.
On Thursday night he looked at the formation the Steelers were in and anticipated that Steelers wide receiver Sammie Coates was going to run a curl route. Coates ran a lazy curl route, and Carroll took advantage of the situation by finishing the route by stepping in front of Coates, picking off the pass, then running it back for a touchdown.
The play set the tone for the game.
I expect a big year out of the young man with more plays like the one he had on Thursday night.