Carroll is glad to be staying in Philly
TWO YEARS after his arrival in Philadelphia, Nolan Carroll is right back where he started. Playing for a new head coach and a new defensive coordinator. Having to prove himself all over again.
TWO YEARS after his arrival in Philadelphia, Nolan Carroll is right back where he started.
Playing for a new head coach and a new defensive coordinator. Having to prove himself all over again.
That was going to be the situation for the 29-year-old cornerback wherever he had decided to sign this offseason. Ultimately, he decided he might as well do it in a place he was familiar with, in front of fans he was familiar with, and with a position coach - Cory Undlin - he was familiar with.
"There's no other place like this," Carroll said Friday, two days after signing a one-year, $2.36 million contract with the Eagles. "I've never been a part of a city where they care about the team so much. I care about this city, these players. That's why I came back."
After spending his first season with the Eagles as a backup, Carroll won a starting job last year and played pretty well before fracturing his right fibula and damaging ligaments in his right ankle in the Eagles' Thanksgiving Day loss to Detroit.
He missed the rest of the season and is still rehabbing the injury, which required surgery. While he has been cleared to run and has estimated that he's at about 85 percent right now, it's too soon to tell how much he'll participate in the team's spring minicamps and OTAs.
"Right now, the first three or four weeks (of the offseason conditioning program) might be just running and lifting," Carroll said. "They'll probably ease me into OTAs. It'll go on how I feel. Between now and OTAs is what, a month-and-a-half? Every single day I'll go on how I feel."
The Eagles had a decent 88.5 opponent passer rating in the 10 games Carroll started and finished last season. It shot up to 99.1 after he got hurt. They nosedived from 16th in the league in passing yards allowed with Carroll to 28th without him.
Carroll's replacement, second-round rookie Eric Rowe, actually played well in five season-ending starts. Most of the rest of the defense not so much, including the other starting corner, Byron Maxwell, whom the Eagles had foolishly signed to a six-year, $63 million contract despite just 17 career starts.
Maxwell has since been traded to Miami. Rowe would seem to have the inside track on one of the two starting corner jobs. Carroll and a cast of thousands, including free-agent additions Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks, are expected to compete for the other starting spot.
McKelvin and Brooks both played for Schwartz two years ago when he was Buffalo's defensive coordinator. McKelvin, 30, was having one of the best seasons of his career in '14 before suffering a season-ending leg injury in the ninth game.
"It's competition," Carroll said. "I know they're going to leave that (position) open for everybody to compete. Nobody that comes in just has a (starting) spot that's set in stone.
"Our coaches do a good job of letting us know that. It's a wide-open type of competition. That's what it's about. That's what I thrive on. Competition just makes the whole group better."
Carroll signed with the Eagles two years ago hoping to win a starting job. But he was primarily used as a linebacker in dime (six defensive backs) packages. It was a spot he had never played before in his previous four NFL seasons with the Dolphins. But he picked it up quickly and did a good job.
The Eagles blew up their secondary after the 2014 season, getting rid of three starters, including both of their starting corners.
Carroll, entering the final year of a two-year contract, was promised nothing. The Eagles had signed Maxwell and spent a high draft pick on Rowe. But Carroll impressed the coaches with his offseason work ethic and won a starting spot in the preseason and made the most of it, until he got hurt.
Had he stayed healthy, there almost certainly would have been more interest in Carroll on the free-agent market, and the Eagles almost certainly would have opened up their wallet a little wider for him. But some people have terrific timing and others break their leg in a contract year.
"Any time a guy has an injury and nobody is able to see him (play) and see how he might progress in the future, it's maybe one of those taking-a-risk types of things," Carroll said. "I don't know. But I'm not worried about that anymore. All I'm worried about is rehabbing and getting back to being a better player than I was last year."
Carroll said the one-year deal was his idea.
"It was my preference," he said. "I felt it was the best way to go about it. Come back and show them that last year wasn't a fluke."
While Carroll has never played for Schwartz, he has played for defensive-backs coach Undlin, who was one of five Kelly assistants retained by new coach Doug Pederson, despite the fact that the Eagles gave up a franchise-record 36 touchdown passes last season.
"Having coach Cory there, he knows what to expect from us and we know what to expect from him," Carroll said. "He's all about playing with great technique. He's all about competing. He's all about giving effort.
"I feel he's one of the best teachers in the NFL at doing that and harping on technique to make us better."
The 6-1, 205-pound Carroll has the versatility to line up anywhere Schwartz wants to use him. He can play outside or inside (as a nickel corner). He can play dime linebacker. He could even play safety.
But it's Carroll's intention to win one of the starting corner spots.
"They know the type of player and person I am," he said. "In '14, when I first got here, it didn't turn out the way I had wanted it to. But my mindset was still the same.
"I've always seen myself as a starter. That's been my mindset since I came into the league, and whenever I'm cleared to go, that's going to be mindset (again)."