NOTEBOOK: Carroll Progressing Well At CB; Other Notes

Posted Oct 11, 2012

Injury to Marshall could lead to another start for ex-Terp.

Three years into his NFL career, Miami Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll still has not started a game in front of the home crowd at Sun Life Stadium. That could change Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.

With veteran Richard Marshall still nursing a back injury, Carroll likely will get his fifth career start and second straight this season with a chance for the Dolphins to even their record at 3-3. Last year he started back-to-back games at Cleveland and at San Diego when Vontae Davis was out with a hamstring injury.

“I thought he made a nice contribution to the victory (last week at Cincinnati) and played well,” Head Coach Joe Philbin said. “Hopefully, he can follow that up and display some consistency. That would be great.”

Consistency is a popular word among coaches, as is potential, but from the players’ perspective the word they like most is opportunity because that means you are getting game repetitions. Carroll had been getting his during nickel and dime packages with Marshall starting as the boundary corner, with Marshall moving into the slot.

Now Carroll lines up on the opposite side of Smith both in the base packages and in nickel and dime situations, giving him more chances to make plays on the ball. Like Smith, he is a converted wide receiver, having played it all through high school in Green Cove Springs, Florida and up until his sophomore season at the University of Maryland.

“I think I’m getting there,” said Carroll, who has 19 tackles (14 solo) and one pass defensed this season. “A lot of guys have been playing that position and me, I haven’t played it long yet, so every day is a learning process for me. I embrace it because every day there’s something new you learn about the position and it ultimately makes you better when you find out something new.”

When Carroll arrived in South Florida as a fifth-round draft pick in the 2010 NFL Draft he knew he was not only behind the curve at the position but also physically. He was coming off of a broken leg suffered in the second game of his senior year against James Madison, so he was still trying to get his speed and agility back.

One of the first players to take him under his wing as a rookie was Smith, who was entering his second season and could relate to the challenges Carroll was facing. He became sort of a mentor, albeit a young one, and has taken notice of Carroll’s growth as a cornerback.

“I think the biggest thing with him was having confidence that he knows what to do out there,” Smith said. “In this game there are a lot of shifts and motions and sometimes the coverages change and I think he’s confident now to the point where whatever happens he’s prepared enough to go out there and take care of himself. Nolan’s technique has always been good to me and before he used to look back at the safety to confirm what he was seeing, and I told him not to worry about that and make his own calls and now he’s relaxed and comfortable.”

Carroll credited Smith with guiding him through the process and helping him to understand coverages and other nuances on and off the field. Their chemistry goes back three years so when they do start together it’s not as difficult of a transition as when a player completely new to the locker room and the defense steps in.

But it wasn’t only the other defensive backs that helped in Carroll’s development. The wide receivers he has been going against in practice also have helped him prepare for game situations and for some of the receivers he has been going up against, specifically Davone Bess, who has seen a significant change in Carroll’s demeanor in practice.

“When he’s out there pressing one-on-one you can just tell by his stance he’s a little more confident in his technique and his ability to lock down a receiver, whoever he’s going against,” said Bess, who is in his fifth season with the team. “That’s a big part of it because when I come up to the line of scrimmage I’m reading the DB’s body language. You can tell if he’s scared or timid or if he’s serious and he’s going to come at you, and I’m seeing that now out of Nolan.”

In keeping with the theory that opportunity breeds confidence, Carroll has seen a clear correlation between his improvement and the number of snaps he has been getting in games. Even when he’s not starting, Carroll is on the field quite a bit because of how often defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle calls for the nickel and dime packages.

This Sunday, Carroll will face a quarterback in the Rams’ Sam Bradford who has a very strong and accurate arm, so his confidence has to be high and his attention to detail has to be on point. He understands that and has come up with a method to make every play count for him.

“Every time you’re out there it gives you another chance to make your confidence grow and it gives you a chance to work on your technique,” Carroll said. “You have to just go out there and have fun and that’s what I’ve been doing. Everyday I just harp on technique because I know that’s going to make me better ultimately on Sundays.”


Best known for his work as a college football analyst for ESPN, Beano Cook passed away today at the age of 81. Among his many different posts in the media industry, Cook served as the Director of Corporate Public Relations for the Miami Dolphins in 1974.

The Pittsburgh native also was the sports information director at his college alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh, from 1956-66 and ABC Sports’ press director for the NCAA after leaving Pitt. In addition he held writing or media representative jobs with the St. Petersburg Times, Mutual Radio Network and CBS before joining ESPN in 1986.
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