(Editor's Note: Throughout the off-season, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players' impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2012 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features cornerback Brandon Carr.)
Name: Brandon Carr
Experience: 5 seasons
College: Grand Valley State
Key stat:Carr led the Cowboys in both passes defended (11) and interceptions (3), including an overtime interception against the Steelers that sealed the win.
Contract Status:Signed through 2016.
How He Played In 2012: It was clear that the front office and coaches made the determination that something had to be done about finishing games in 2011 on defense. The commitment was to try and spend their resources to grab cornerbacks that could in fact make plays throughout a game but more importantly on third down. In talking to coaches after that season, they felt there were too many times where their corner play let them down. Going into free agency in the spring of 2012, there were several potential directions that the club could go with in Brandon Carr, Brent Grimes and Courtland Finnegan. The Falcons would franchise Grimes and with Jeff Fisher taking over as the head coach in St. Louis, he made the decision to work with Finnegan who he had coached in Tennessee.
I personally was a big fan of Grimes but was totally okay when the front office went after Carr because I thought he was a more complete corner than Finnegan who was more of a slot type. Carr didn't appear to be as fast or quick as Grimes or Finnegan but you did see a physical player when he was walked up in man coverage. For this Rob Ryan scheme, I thought he was perfect to be physical off the line and keep receivers from getting into their routes which seemed to be the biggest issues in 2011. For Carr, it really started in training camp when daily I would observe him battling these receivers not only in drills but during team periods. The one area where he really shined was in his ball skills. I came away more impressed with his ability to play the ball in the air and keep it away from the receiver. Where Carr showed his versatility during the season was not only marking the opponent's best receiver but when injuries hit the safety position, he was able to work there in some sub packages.
If Carr did have some struggles, it was when he had to play off coverage because Ryan was trying to protect some issues they were having with the injuries. Carr is best when he can press and get his hands on the receiver because I don't believe he has the overall speed and quickness to allow a receiver to get a run on him and stay with him. If he can be physical, he can keep himself in good position in the route which is his strength.
How Does He Fit: This scheme will require Carr and Claiborne both to have to become better point of attack players in the running game but as far as pass coverage, they still have get the opportunity to play man coverage and use their physical skills to handle receivers. Again, the biggest adjustment will come in
how Carr will play the run. There were times during the 2012 season where he could have done a better job when the ball spilled to his side or he had to deal with a receiver in open space. Carr's tackling skill will not make you forget Ronde Barber, Antoine Winfield or Charles Tillman who have been outstanding in this scheme but as far as coverage goes, he is just as talented and smart. It will be an adjustment for him but one he should be able to handle.
Writers' Analysis: Rowan Kavner –Living up to the expectations of a $50 million man is no easy feat, and Carr will admit that midway through the season he went through a stretch of games where he wasn't content with his play. But Carr became what the Cowboys hoped he could be down the stretch, racking up all three interceptions in the second half of the year. He may not have been a top three shutdown corner in the league, but he was about as solid as a starting [embedded_ad] cornerback comes, once he got adjusted to the defense. He's become a role model for Morris Claiborne and provides the kind of talent and off-the-field presence that should be a positive influence in the development of the Cowboys' 2012 first-round pick. If the Cowboys can generate more of a pass rush in 2013, Carr should continue to force turnovers in Monte Kiffin's system.