Nolan Carroll walked off the practice field recently and found himself surrounded by reporters.
Carroll had picked off his first pass of training camp. He had already averaged about one pass breakup per day. He even looked good on kick returns.
Naturally, reporters wanted to know if the Eagles' free-agent cornerback felt thrilled about his camp progress so far.
“Nope,” Carroll said.
“Not good enough, man,” he said. “It’s not good enough right now. I feel like there’s more I can do.”
Like what, winning the kicker competition?
“I don’t have have enough picks, that’s what it is,” Carroll added. “I need to get more picks and to continue to get my hands on the ball and make game-changing plays. That’s my mindset every day I come out here.”
Carroll’s signing didn’t register much of a blip on the offseason radar, but he’s shown this camp that he could be the defense’s best-kept secret. He’s displayed active hands, good instincts and adaptability. Even in the spring camps, Carroll’s effort stood out.
He’s mainly worked with Brandon Boykin on the second team as an outside corner. At some point, the coaches will likely feed him a steady diet of first-team reps to test him against the best.
“That's the good thing about preseason games, you get a chance to see what they can do and what they can't do, along with our evaluations in practice,” coach Chip Kelly said. “Obviously, Nolan is a guy that's continuing to show up every day, so obviously he warrants playing time. We'll see where we can get him fit in and help us as a team defensively.”
Right now, it seems unlikely that Carroll will unseat Bradley Fletcher for the right cornerback job. Fletcher is having a good enough camp and Davis is trying to establish some continuity on the defense.
But Carroll gives the Eagles the kind of depth in the secondary they sorely lacked last season and a potential playmaker in sub packages. Last year, if Fletcher or Cary Williams went out with an injury, the team leaned on Roc Carmichael to fill in and kept Boykin in the slot.
Carmichael had never played a game in his two seasons with Houston before the Eagles signed him. Carroll started 26 of his 58 games in four seasons with Miami and last year had three picks.
Although Carroll was strictly an outside corner with Miami, he’s been working on the inside with Boykin in the team’s dime formation, which defensive coordinator Billy Davis is experimenting with as another way to get Carroll on the field.
Davis likes what he sees so far in Carroll, but he’s not on board with Carroll’s self scouting report.
“I'll disagree with him,” Davis said. “ I think he's very hard on himself. He's a perfectionist. I love the fact that we have him. He drives himself every day.”
Carroll downplayed the theme of competing against Fletcher. After four tumultuous years in South Florida, including last year’s turmoil-plagued season, he’s happy to be surrounded by teammates who share the same passion for football as he does.
“This has really been the first time in a long time I’ve been a part of an intense group like this, where guys are just going 100 miles per hour because we all have a vision of what we want to do,” he said, “to win the division, get to the playoffs and ultimately win the Super Bowl. We want to be playing at the end of January, early February. That’s the goal around here.”