For the last three months I have done nothing but break down college players for the NFL Draft. Many of those thoughts I have shared with you on DallasCowboys.com and our internet shows. For the next few days I am going to focus on the free agents that the club signed during the free agency period and how they will fit into the plans for the 2012 season.
There were three cornerbacks that teams were studying hard before free agency opened: Brandon Carr, Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan. Each player has their unique style in the way they play. Carr is a press-man player, Grimes is more technically sound and Finnegan is the type of guy you would like to play in the slot. Grimes was given the franchise tag by the Falcons so he was taken off the market, and teams were left to work between Carr and Finnegan. The St. Louis Rams hired Jeff Fisher as their head coach, so there were many in the league who believed Finnegan would get an offer from his former coach at the Titans to help the struggling Rams secondary. That offer came, leaving Carr for the Cowboys to deal with, but all along he was their first choice.
What type of player are the Cowboys getting in Brandon Carr? I sat down and studied him against Detroit, San Diego, New England and Green Bay to try and paint a picture for you. In the Lions contest he was matched up against Calvin Johnson who is a big, physical receiver in his own right. To Carr's credit he didn't back down from the challenge and walked right up on top of the talented wide receiver. With his jam, Carr was able to keep Johnson from starting his route, where he is so dangerous getting up the field. Once Johnson was able to restart, Carr was able to maintain his position inside on the vertical route, not giving Stafford any window to fit the ball in. Carr did such a nice job on Johnson during the game, the Lions' coaches flipped him to run routes on the other side of the field where he had his most production.
Where Carr is most effective is his ability to stab his man off the line with his hand then turn his body to run up the field. He really moves easily and shows nice start-and-stop quickness. He has good ability to read routes and understand what the receiver is trying to do to him. He did a nice job of reading the crossing route against San Diego and under-cutting the ball to knock the pass down. In the Green Bay game he was able to contest the ball when Donald Driver ran a comeback along the sideline. Carr was able to read the route, play the man and drive hard down hill to make the play.
If there is a fault to Brandon Carr's game it would be his consistency as a tackler. There are times where he plays like he wants nothing to do with it. In each game that I studied, he would have one play where he would take a bad angle to the ball. Against the Chargers, a poor angle allowed the the ball to get to the outside for a nice gain. When in the open field he tends to be a low tackler, and this will cause him to miss some opportunities to get his man on the ground. Needs to do a better job as a wrap tackler. In the Green Bay game, I thought he needed to show more of a sense of urgency in getting off the block on the edge.
Where does Carr fit? The majority of his career he has played as the right cornerback and before the draft the thought was that he would play on the left side with Mike Jenkins playing on the right. Now in the mix is Morris Claiborne, who was also a right corner at LSU, so Carr still might play on the left side. It will be an adjustment in technqiue and vision, but the club might feel that it is better than putting Claiborne to that side. As far as the scheme, it's a nice fit for the Cowboys because of the skill set that Carr plays with. The thought among the staff was that the pass rush was not the problem in 2011 but the coverage was. The addition of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne will go a long way to help correct those thoughts.