There's a new sheriff in the Cowboys secondary.
When the Cowboys signed Brandon Carr to a five-year $50.1 million dollar contract, they instantly upgraded their secondary. Terence Newman was a good cornerback during the majority of his career, but he became a major liability during his last two years in Dallas. What the front office needed to do was go out and spend some money on a young and talented cornerback who would be entering the prime of his career.
Brandon Carr fits the bill because he just turned 26 years old and plays the type of football defensive coordinator Rob Ryan wants, press coverage. One of the reasons Newman became such a liability in 2011 was that he had lost a step, or two. How many times did we have to see him play 10-15 yards off the line of scrimmage? Far too many by my count.
Newman was never very good at getting physical and pressing wide receivers at the line; that just wasn't his game. In today's NFL, you need cornerbacks who can cover with a variety of techniques. Press coverage is important to Rob Ryan because if he can have man coverage in the secondary, and actually have it hold up, it allows him to blitz more often. When your coverage is actually doing what it is supposed to do, then you can start bringing the heat.
Does Brandon Carr actually give the Cowboys' defense a strategical and mental edge in 2012? Take the jump for more...
I have watched Carr play quite a few games on television and I have studied some of his tape, so I am familiar with his game. Even before the Cowboys showed any interest in him, he was a player on my radar that I respected for his high level of play on the field. After reviewing some footage on Carr, I came to the conclusion that he is a press cornerback, a very good one. Carr is a big and physical cornerback who will use his size to his advantage. He also has the ability to play zone coverage, and according to Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson, he is better in zone coverage.
"Well, first and foremost, the Cowboys had a massive need at the position and considering the weapons in the NFC East, getting a reputable CB was a must. I like Carr. He is still young, plays physical and can play man or zone coverage, although I think he is better as a zone guy. However, I also think he benefited a great deal from having [Brandon] Flowers on the other side of him in KC, as the Chiefs often put Flowers on the opponent’s WR1."
Williamson isn't the first person to say that Carr has benefited from playing opposite of Flowers. While Flowers is a very good cornerback, Brandon Carr is no slouch and held his own against some of the top wide receivers in this league. Bryan Broaddus is a former scout who does a fantastic job of evaluating players and breaking down their film. Let's take a look at what Broaddus had to say about Carr.
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.
In my opinion, the Cowboys brought in the best cover cornerback on the free agent market. Carr brings the ability to take the opposition's best wide receiver out of the game. He is willing to get up in your face and he wants to be physical. That is an element that has been missing from the Cowboys' secondary for a very long time. With all due respect to Mike Jenkins, who is a very good press corner, Carr wants to get physical and make it a dogfight for the entire game. David Moore of the Dallas Morning News says that Carr is more physical than what we have seen in the past from our cornerbacks, and I have to agree with him.
Even though it is only June and these are OTA practices, Carr has been dominating them. During the red zone segment of practice on Wednesday, Carr put on a show. Jason Garrett is always looking for the "RKG", and those types of players work hard in practice. Carr's dominance in these types of drills give us a glimpse of the advantage he brings to the defense.
Garrett spoke about how press coverage will be a big advantage for the defense due to the addition of Carr.
"He’s a big, long guy. Very long arms. Great athlete who can run. Not afraid to be physical," Garrett said. "We’ve seen that in practice over the course of this offseason. It’s great work for him to be up there pressing a lot. It’s also great work for our receivers. Every time they come off the line of scrimmage, they have to deal with that. It’s great practice for him, because that’s how he’ll play, and that’s how he’s played for most of his career."
Carr received a lot of good coaching in Kansas City from former NFL cornerback Herm Edwards. Edwards played for ten seasons in the NFL and was a very solid football player who liked to be physical. The former Chiefs coach had plenty of good things to say about the cornerback he drafted out of Grand Valley State in the fifth-round of the 2008 NFL Draft.
"You know what you're getting," said former Kansas City coach Herm Edwards, whose 54th birthday present from the Chiefs was getting to make the call on drafting Carr. "You're getting a guy you can count on."
"He's coachable. He's available. He doesn't miss games. He loves to practice. ... He's not the stock market. He's not going to be up and down. He's one guy you don't have to worry about."
The Cowboys have been beaten up by some of the premier wide receivers in our division. In order to contend for a Super Bowl, you must build your team to win your division. Dallas will have to face Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin in four games a year. Having press coverage that can take the dynamic wide receivers we will face on a regular basis out of the game will play a vital role in winning our division. Not only do we have to face excellent wide receivers in our own division, our schedule is loaded with premier talent at the receiver position.
The Cowboys did a lot of soul searching during the offseason when they evaluated what they had at the cornerback position. They realized that they needed help there and it became evident to them that the only way to improve their Super Bowl aspirations was to upgrade their pass coverage.
Brandon Carr may not be Darrelle Revis or Charles Woodson, but he is a very good cornerback who can change the dynamic of this defense. When you factor in that the Cowboys have a potential superstar talent in Morris Claiborne on the other side of Carr, this secondary has the potential to become a strength like we haven't seen in Dallas since Deion Sanders was here.
Rob Ryan was blown away by how good Carr really was when he finally got to see him in practice.
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said last week that Carr is better than advertised.
"I knew he was great, but the guy is special," he said.
What makes him special?
"Just because he shuts down everybody," Ryan said. "He can cover anybody. He’s got long arms, great length, and he’s a great person who works his tail off. He takes coaching, and I’m really impressed with him."
It may be unfair to say that Ryan is on the hot seat, but Jerry Jones is probably expecting huge results from Ryan and his defensive unit this season. Jones went out and signed the #1 free agent cornerback, but he also traded up eight spots in the draft and traded away his second-round pick for another press cornerback so Ryan would have some tools to build with.
The Cowboys now have two press cornerbacks with size, and that is a very rare thing in the NFL to have two corners like that. The pressure is always on in Big D, but it will be even more amplified in 2012. One thing I know is that the press coverage is finally here, hopefully it makes a difference.