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Newly Signed Corner Carr Looks To Change Secondary’s “Identity”
OXNARD, Calif. – During the Dallas Cowboys’ disappointing 8-8 finish last year the defensive secondary was often the topic of criticism and ridicule among fans and media. Dallas ranked 23rd in pass defense during the regular season. Brandon Carr was brought in to initiate change in that department and he hopes to do just that.
When asked about the Cowboys’ secondary issues last season, Carr points out that he is much more focused on the team’s future.
“I don’t think about it ever,” says Carr about the Cowboys’ 2011 problems. “Last year is the past. We get a clean slate. There are guys that are new to the equation around here. We got a fresh start and we’re doing our best to change our identity. At the end of the day it’s time to make a name for ourselves in 2012.”
Carr, who is entering his fifth year in the NFL, has stood out as a top cornerback in the league since his rookie campaign, when he recorded 77 tackles and two interceptions. Last season, he totaled a career-high four interceptions.
The Cowboys were quick and aggressive this offseason in addressing a perceived weakness. In March they pursued Carr and signed him to a five-year deal worth $50 million, $26.5 million of which was guaranteed. Then in April they traded up in the draft in order to select Morris Claiborne at the No. 6 spot. Both players will be expected to start at cornerback in Week 1 against the New York Giants.
Defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson was a big fan of the signing of Carr and believes that his résumé speaks for itself.
“The guy has been productive in this league,” said Henderson. “He’s gone and shown that he is a quality player every week. He battles and plays hard. He’s a really good player.”
According to Henderson, the impact of Carr in training camp has already been apparent.
“He’s a really professional guy, really tough, really competitive,” says Henderson. “He just goes out every day and works. He doesn’t say a lot, but he asks great questions.”
Henderson was not the only coach who was quick to praise Carr. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has been leading defenses in the NFL for 12 years and he has been thrilled with Carr’s presence on the team. Ryan went a step further than Henderson in his admiration, making a bold statement about the offseason signing.
“Brandon Carr is everything we thought and more,” said Ryan. “He’s got an incredible work ethic. He was the best player in free agency by far. It’s not even close. “
When asked to clarify whether he meant to say best cornerback in free agency rather than the best “player” Ryan confirmed that he thought Carr was the best player on the free agent market. This is quite a vote of confidence considering this year’s class of free agents included players like Peyton Manning and Mario Williams.
In the last game of the 2011-2012 season against the Giants, a game that would have sent the Cowboys to the playoffs had they won, Ryan’s secondary gave up 346 passing yards and three touchdowns on their way to a 31-14 loss. Head coach Jason Garrett spoke on the signing of Carr and how much they are expecting out of him.
“We thought that (secondary help) was the most pressing need on our football team and we felt like he would address it,” said Garrett. “We liked him a lot when we signed him and what we’ve seen so far has made us like him that much or even more.”
While Carr’s contract will garner high expectations, there will also be a high standard for Claiborne. Carr knows a little something about coming in as a rookie cornerback and making an impact. He hopes to help Claiborne be as prepared as possible for NFL play.
“Any time you get a rookie you want to take him under your wing and try to mentor him and help get him game ready as soon as possible,” says Carr. “It’s rough out there for an NFL corner, no matter how many years you have been in the league. So for me to have the opportunity to mentor him and answer any questions he might have helps me to become the best teammate I can be.”
After a week of training camp and a setback due to a MCL sprain, Claiborne acknowledges the importance of Carr as a mentor who can help him be prepared for the season as well as help him keep his morale up.
“Since the first time I came to the facility and the first time I met him, he told me if I ever have questions I should ask him,” said Claiborne. “Just a couple of nights ago I called him because I needed help with something and he came to my room around 10:00 p.m. just to walk me through some things. Basically we are learning the same things because I’m new and he’s new so we have to learn from each other.”
After four years of training camp in Kansas City, Carr is adjusting just fine to his first training camp in Oxnard with the Cowboys.
“I’m loving this weather right now,” says Carr. “The fans are awesome. We're feeding off of their energy. I’m really comfortable in this camp right now. I’m just out here trying to have fun with my teammates.”
Carr looked impressive in the Blue-White Scrimmage on Sunday and even intercepted a Tony Romo pass.
“I’m excited about that,” said Romo. “If he can get in there and do that then that’s going to help us a lot.”
Last season the Kansas City Chiefs had the sixth-ranked passing defense in the NFL with Carr as their primary cornerback. The defense only gave up 201 passing yards per game. This is even more impressive considering they were forced to overcome having the 26th ranked rushing defense. The defense was also on the field constantly because the Chiefs had the 25th ranked offense.