BY Bob Hoffman
It’s not really fair to Miami Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll. But he can’t start at left corner. He can’t start a right corner. He can’t even start in the slot as a nickel corner.
Welcome to the second in a series of what you should be looking at during Dolphins training camp which opened this past weekend. Last week, I told you to keep an eye on the impact of receiver Mike Wallace even when he isn’t the intended target. This week it’s time to turn our attention to the other side of the ball and an almost entirely rebuilt secondary.
By all reports, free agent pick up Brent Grimes not only looks recovered from a torn Achilles’ tendon but has drawn raves for his coverage ability such as in this tweet from the Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero:
“@ArmandoSalguero: Brent Grimes … Excellent so far. Best CB seen around here since Surtain and Madison.”
Now, one should wait until he plays a game for Miami to make that claim but let’s assume that Grimes holds down the number one cornerback job. The logical question is who fills out the rest of the starting lineup. Last year’s free agent pick-up Richard Marshall looked very inconsistent in just four games before being sidelined for the season with a back injury. The times we live in suggest that coming back from this type of injury might be more troublesome than Grimes’ Achilles Tendon. Who would have guessed that?
Regardless, Marshall is the kind of cornerback who appears to make a play on occasion but also will get beat more than occasionally. Simply put he is a shaky option for the number two cornerback, which brings us to Dmitri Patterson. The former Philadelphia Eagle and Cleveland Brown castoff played reasonably well in spot duty for the Dolphins late last season but carries a high salary cap number for a limited skill set.
By now, you should be asking about the rookies Miami selected in this year’s draft, Jamar Taylor and Will Smith. Well Taylor has yet to work because he is recovering from sports-hernia surgery. Davis, while having an athletic skill set for the position, is very inexperienced especially in facing top competition.. He has one year of high school football and played for three different schools in college including a year of junior college and finishing up with traditional powerhouse Utah State.
Since teams basically start three cornerbacks (a number one and number two as well as a slot) against most offenses in today’s NFL, the Dolphins better hope that between Marshall, Patterson and the two rookies they can fill at least the other two cornerback positions next to Grimes because the alternative is Nolan Carroll.
Carroll has a good size and track speed but also has one significant drawback. He can’t cover. As in at all. Even remotely. Even if you ask him to put a blanket over a baby.
I remember witnessing this firsthand from a hundred feet away or so when former Dolphins’ cornerback Vontae Davis had to leave a game against the Houston Texans in 2011. Carroll was given the job of covering Andre Johnson. Now Johnson has made several corners look foolish but the thing that really stood out about this match-up was the immediate decision by the Texans to go after Carroll repeatedly. They were successful almost every time, especially (to my recollection) on a touchdown catch where Carroll wasn’t within five yards of Johnson…on a red zone play.
Carroll found a way to cover players in 2012. He just grabbed them. It got to the point where when a flag was thrown in the secondary it was an easy bet for either defensive holding or pass interference on No.28. Part of Carroll’s problem is that he struggles turning his head and hips so he can locate the football when it’s thrown to the receiver.
I am sure Carroll is a nice guy and maybe in a limited role he could be effective for Miami but as training camp progresses you want to see who he lines up with. If it’s the first team, and his skills don’t improve dramatically, then cringing is permitted.