When the Eagles signed cornerback Nolan Carroll to a two-year deal in March, many expected the former Miami Dolphin to challenge Bradley Fletcher for the starting spot at left corner.
Despite joining a secondary that finished last in the league in passing yards allowed last season, Carroll spent all of Thursday’s session at the NovaCare Complex with the Eagles' second unit, while returning starters Fletcher and Cary Williams took all the first-team reps.
Although he is coming off a season in which he started 12 games and registered three interceptions and two sacks for Miami, where he takes his reps is the last thing on Carroll’s mind right now.
Carroll found himself surrounded by the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito scandal that clouded the Dolphins 2013 season. Now, Carroll is simply glad to be in a different environment.
“There’s definitely a different pace and atmosphere here,” Carroll said. “Everybody’s enthusiastic and positive.
“It’s different for me seeing these guys' attitudes and how they go about doing things. It’s good to be around people who have a positive attitude.”
In any of his four years in Miami, the Dolphins failed to record a winning record. Last year’s squad that blew a chance to make the playoffs by losing its last two games to finish 8-8.
In his brief time in Philadelphia, Carroll has enjoyed not just Chip Kelly’s upbeat style, but also the vibe surrounding the team following a 10-6 season and NFC East title.
“They just came off a good year going to the playoffs, and that‘s something I never experienced in Miami,” Carroll said. “It’s been good viewing how these guys view themselves moving into the future.”
Make no mistake, Carroll wants to start and wants to be on the field. He just prefers to focus on himself rather than who is ahead of him on the depth chart.
Right now, the Eagles have five cornerbacks that could receive significant playing time in 2014, with last season’s team interception leader Brandon Boykin and fourth-round draft choice Jaylen Watkins joining Carroll, Fletcher and Williams.
The goal for all of them, as far as Carroll is concerned, is helping the team’s pass defense move up the ladder from 2013’s league-worst ranking.
“I’ve never looked at things as a competition between me and somebody else,” Carroll said. “When I’m out there, I’m trying to make plays. I can only control what I can control and that’s what I do on the field.
“We’re all competing for the same job but we’re all pushing each other to get better. We look at it as a group success and we want to be able to improve upon what they did last year.”
Fletcher, who started 13 games and registered two interceptions and 15 passed defended for the Eagles last season, has welcomed Carroll into the team’s secondary, but that doesn’t mean he plans on letting his starting spot slip away.
In his second year with the team after leaving the St. Louis Rams as a free agent last offseason, Fletcher feels the secondary starting to come together, and he hopes Carroll will be a big part of its improvement.
“All the defensive backs are competing against each other every day, and it’s making us better,” Fletcher said. “Going into Year 2, everything is coming along so much better. Guys are doing things faster and things are going good.”