Ever since the Dallas Cowboys signed Brandon Carr to his $50 million free agent contract, the fans, at least, have suffered a lot of buyer's remorse. He has been somewhere between bad and lackluster the first three years of his time wearing the Star. When he was signed he was supposed to be part of the solution in the secondary. The other part of that projected solution was Morris Claiborne, who has disappointed even more.
Going into the 2015 training camp in Oxnard, there are high hopes for the addition of Byron Jones to the secondary, but Carr is expected to retain his starting job along with Orlando Scandrick, the best of the Dallas cornerbacks. The team is looking for an overall boost defensively with the large infusion of talent there during the offseason, but a strong performance from Carr would also be of great benefit. Can he deliver?
There are some positive signs. He was starting to come on strong at the end of the season despite not having a good year overall. The grades at Pro Football Focus reflect this. He had an overall -8.1 for the season, which put him at a dismal 90th out of 108 corners in the league. But the last four games of the regular season, he had positive grades in three of them, grading out at a very respectable +4.9 in the month of December. He had his issues again in the playoff game against the Packers, but the entire defense wilted in that one.
When you look at the season arc for him, it bears some resemblance to that of another player the Cowboys are hoping will play a big role in lifting the defense this season, DeMarcus Lawrence. Of course, Lawrence missed the first eight games due to a training camp injury, and there was nothing like that for Carr.
Or was there? I was reading an article by Jon Machota about the five things that have changed the most for Dallas over the past year, and there was this that I had completely forgotten at the very end.
And starting corner Brandon Carr will be participating from the start of camp. He missed the first 11 practices last year to be with his mother before she lost her battle with cancer.
That was not just a lot of practice time missed. It was an emotional and physical drain on him that only those who have been through something similar can grasp. We forget at times that the superb athletes that play in the NFL are also human beings with frailties and weaknesses just like the rest of us. It was not an injury, but it was possibly a setback that took Carr most of the season to recover from. If the player we saw in the last month of the regular season shows up in camp, then he may indeed be on his way to finally giving the Cowboys some serious return on their investment.
Add in the synergy that should come from a pass rush that is expected to be much more potent, and the situation in the secondary may be one of the bright spots on a team that looks to have a lot of them this year. It is also effectively a contract year for Carr, since 2016 is the first year the team can cut him without a prohibitive cap hit. He should be very motivated to bring his best game to the field. Whether it is his swan song with Dallas or the start of a new day with them, the team can only benefit from an improved version of him on game day.
It is one more very intriguing story for a camp that already has plenty of things to follow eagerly. Hopefully it will turn out to be one of many good ones.