What do the Eagles have in cornerback Nolan Carroll?

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Philadelphia Eagles’ cornerback Nolan Carroll is turning heads at team practices this off-season, according the reporters who have been in attendance. The 2014 free agent acquisition solidifies desperately needed depth at the position after shaky performances from last year’s backups.

In fact, Carroll may just work himself into the starting lineup.

According to reporter Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com, Eagles defensive backs coach John Lovett said Monday that he expects Carroll to legitimately challenge for a starting position on the outside. “I’m thrilled to death we have Nolan Carroll here,” Lovett said. “Having Nolan Carroll here has added competition, and it has made Cary [Williams] and Bradley [Fletcher] prepare harder, work harder, play better.” Kempski also noted that Carroll was a standout player during the team’s mini-camp that was open to the media yesterday:

Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com echoed the same sentiment:

 

Perhaps what’s most impressive about Carroll’s play the last few weeks is that non-contact practices really put cornerbacks at a disadvantage. Here’s more from Kempski on Carroll:

“He has repeatedly broken up passes, and even picked off a few…Carroll is excelling playing off coverage, which is outside his comfort zone. That’s a very good sign.”

All of this is good news for the Eagles pass defense, which was a unit that ranked dead last yards allowed last season.

Carroll brings a wealth of experience to the Philadelphia secondary, including 22 starts over the last two seasons during his time with the Miami Dolphins. Per Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks had a measly 65.0 QB rating when throwing in Carroll’s direction last season. For comparison, pro bowler Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who was one of the best cornerbacks in the league last season, surrendered a 67.8 QB rating. Carroll also recorded three interceptions and 2 sacks in 2013.

At 6’1” and 202 pounds, Carroll is one of the more physical players at the position, and general manager Howie Roseman raved about his physical tools earlier this off-season.

“Nolan is a guy we have studied for a while and the thing you see is his size, speed and press ability,” Roseman said. “You can never have enough big, long corners on a football team. He’s also a player that has proven to be a productive gunner on special teams.”

In fact, head coach Chip Kelly told reporters prior to the team’s mini-camp practice today that Carroll is “one of the best gunners in the league.”

(Side note: Carroll and fellow cornerback Brandon Boykin could be one of the best “gunner” tandems in the NFL this year).

Speaking of special teams, here’s a random but interesting tidbit that may only interest me: Carroll was actually the player involved in the tripping incident a few years ago, when former New York Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi stuck his leg out and tripped Carroll as he was covering a punt along the sidelines.

As the Eagles move into day three of mini-camp, Carroll is currently running with the second string defense opposite Curtis Marsh, according to Matt Lombardo of NJ.com. Not surprisingly, Carroll is completely fine with that.

“Wherever they want to put me, that works for me,” Carroll told Lombardo. “I just want to play football. That’s it.”

With training camp on the horizon, Carroll could find himself playing football with the first team before long.

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