Not until he left the palm-tree lined avenues and sun-speckled beaches of South Florida did Nolan Carroll find paradise.
Strangely, it’s at the noisy, congested intersection of Broad and Pattison.
After four years of rampant losing, coaching staff turnover, quarterback carousels and front-office misfires in Miami, Carroll feels revitalized and invigorated in Philly.
“It’s more just excited just because of a new possibility, a new chapter in my life, something I haven’t experienced since I’ve been in the NFL,” the Eagles’ cornerback said last week. “I’ve been with the same team for four years. It’s been the same thing every year and it’s kinda been the same results, going through certain things every year and trying to overcome that stuff.
“For here, it’s really just a new environment, new people I’m around, new teammates, new city. Those kind of things excite me because I don’t know what’s lying ahead.”
Carroll, a free agent, said goodbye to Miami after four stuck-in-the-mud seasons with the Dolphins, only one of which didn’t end in a losing record. That was last season, when Miami managed to finish 8-8 despite the hazing problem that cost them two starting offensive linemen.
Despite posting their best record in five years, the 2013 Dolphins were more newsworthy for the impish, behind-closed-doors antics of their offensive linemen than for anything they did on the field. The black cloud of negative attention “killed us,” Carroll admitted.
In Chip Kelly’s program, Carroll sees brighter days and environment that can enable athletes to reach their fullest potential.
“Just the fact that three are no distractions,” he said. “You’re just able to concentrate on football. Stuff that happened last year, we tried to concentrate on football. But when when we tried it was always the other stuff was always brought up.
“For us, even though we tried to avoid it, it sidetracked us so much because people were talking about the wrong things. It kind of killed us.”
The other asset that made Philadelphia an attractive destination was opportunity. On his free-agent recruiting trip, Carroll believed Kelly’s promise that he would compete for a starting job.
Carroll’s 6-foot-1, 202-pound frame fits the head coach’s preference for strong, slender bodies on the outside and he specializes in the man-press coverage prominent in coordinator Billy Davis’ scheme.
Kelly, a stickler on special teams, also said Carroll was one of the NFL’s best gunners on returns, which Carroll did earlier in his career. Over the past two years, the former Maryland standout started 22 games at right cornerback for Miami.
Carroll is presumably battling left cornerback Bradley Fletcher at training camp this summer for the starting job.
“Coach Kelly told me he was gonna give me an opportunity to come in here and compete for a starting job,” Carroll said. “That’s something, looking into that and looking at how the team was last year … they made the playoffs and that’s something I’ve never been used to, never been accustomed to.
“The culture is all about getting better every single day, no matter what it might be. And that’s something that appealed to me, because I could have gone to other places but this was the place I felt more comfortable.”
It’s showed. Even during the spring camps, where it’s next to impossible for defensive backs to excel with no real pass rush in front of them, Carroll managed to impress his coaches and teammates by always being around the ball. Carroll had several breakups during last week’s three-day minicamp.
“You know what, he’s shown up,” safety Malcolm Jenkins, another free-agent newcomer, said. “He’s somebody that’s jumped off the tape big-time. He’s natural in his backpedal. He can anticipate routes well. He jumps a lot of routes, make plays on the ball, doesn’t let anything get behind him. I’ve been impressed by him.”
When informed that his spring camp production had turned some heads, Carroll shrugged off the significance.
He knows real statements are made at training camp.
“Not yet. I don’t think so yet,” he said. “I know I’m the new guy, but I feel like a rookie a little bit, just trying to get my place out here, getting guys to notice that I’m here. That’s all I’m trying to do every day. I know it’s just minicamp, but for me, I’m ready to go into the preseason games, ready to get into pads and show what I can actually do overall as a player.”