Brandon Boykin was the camp standout on defense last year. Every day it seemed like the Georgia product made at least one play that commanded your attention. This year, that distinction belongs to Nolan Carroll.
It didn’t move the needle much when the Eagles signed the former Dolphin to a two-year, $5.25 million contract in free agency, but he has opened some eyes since his arrival.
His moment on Thursday (or at least one of them) came during 7-on-7s. Locked up with Jeremy Maclin, Carroll extended himself to break up a Nick Foles pass in the end zone. Those PBUs have become a regular occurrence.
“He’s a very well‑rounded talent,” said Billy Davis. “He’s got size, he’s got length, he’s got speed. He’s a real tenacious competitor. I love his attitude out there the way he presses and competes and puts his hands on the people, and he’s got a good knack for the ball.”
Who knows if a solid summer will translate into a productive fall like it did for Boykin but Carroll continues to impress, even if he’s not all that impressed with himself.
“No,” Carroll replied when asked if he thinks he’s having a good camp. “I’m not doing enough, man. I really feel that I’m not doing enough right now. I need to do more, actually. I’m trying to do anything I can to start so in my mind right now I’m not satisfied.”
A former fifth-round pick out of Maryland, Carroll (6-1, 205) spent the first four seasons of his career in Miami. He started 12 games for the Dolphins last year and finished with three interceptions and 11 pass break-ups. According to Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks completed just 47.8 percent of their passes into Nolan’s coverage. Only three corners in the NFL were statistically better in that department last year. He also finished ninth in opposing quarterback rating (65.0).
The 27-year-old said this system suits him because of all the press man Davis asks his corners to play. Overall, he feels like he is hitting his stride as he enters his fifth season.
“Because I’ve gone through so many scenarios in my first couple of years, nothing I see really surprises me — situations, receivers, system, nothing surprises me anymore,” said Carroll. “I was thrown into the fire so early that my head was on a swivel all the time trying to catch up with everybody else. I was around a lot of veterans so I always was a step behind because I was trying to keep up with those guys.
“Every single year I’ve felt like I’ve gotten better and better and now I’m at the point where I’m comfortable. I know what I’m supposed to do when I’m out there and I’m always thinking about just making plays instead of thinking about if I’m aligned correctly, what’s the call, am I playing it right. I’m just out there playing now.”
Most seem to believe that he has the best chance of replacing Bradley Fletcher on the outside. Davis was asked how realistic it is that Carroll supplants either Fletcher or Cary Williams.
“Oh I think everybody has a legitimate chance at the starting jobs. That’s one thing about the off‑season and training camp that we pride ourselves on. It’s open competition at all spots,” he said.
“And guys that are new coming in, whether it’s a young rookie or it’s a veteran from another team, is that we open the doors, and competition is the healthiest thing that we’ve got going and they are all competing for the starting job. I think it’s a great possibility. Anything’s possible.”