The Dallas Cowboys didn’t waste any time signing Brandon Carr once the 2012 NFL free agent period began this spring. However, some thought the five-year, $50.1 million deal Dallas gave Carr was an overreaction to the Cowboys’ horrific pass defense over the previous two seasons. Through a week and a half of training camp, Carr has been worth every penny.
Most of the secondary attention at Cowboys training camp has been on first-round draft pick Morris Claiborne, who has battled injuries and troubled Dallas receiver Dez Bryant. It seems no one is paying any attention to Carr, who has been arguably the surest thing at Cowboys camp in Oxnard, Cali. No one except Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, that is:
“The guy’s got an unbelievable work ethic,” Ryan said. “He was the best player in free agency by far. Not even close. He’s a leader, he helps the other guys around him and he’s a tough kid. We need smart and tough. This guy is not nervous about playing under the big lights. He’s here in Dallas. It’s a different world here. Everything you do is scrutinized. But this guy won’t flinch, I can promise you that.”
Carr hasn’t flinched yet, validating Ryan’s boast. While he remains quiet for the most part, he did say “there won’t be no dancing” for New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz, who celebrates his touchdown receptions with a brief rendition of the salsa. That statement came less than three weeks after Carr was signed by Dallas, but he’s now taking a different approach to the opposition.
“I don’t really do too much talking,” Carr said. “I feel like you go out there, you shut them down and you let your play do your talking.”
The Cowboys are banking on Carr being a shutdown corner, like the three players around which he molds his game: the Philadelphia Eagles‘ Nnamdi Asomugha, the New York Jets‘ Darrelle Revis and the Denver Broncos‘ Champ Bailey. Carr said he includes himself with those three players in the discussion of the NFL’s best press cornerbacks. Dallas’ young receivers, such as second-year pro Raymond Radway, definitely put Carr in that elite company.
“He’s the cornerback that, for the receivers, is real hard to beat,” Radway said. “Everyone wants to get their plays in with him because, if you can beat Carr, it’s going to be easy on Sunday.”
Carr didn’t shy away from the praise.
“It’s a compliment,” Carr said. “I like to lead by example. So every day I’m going to come in and show these guys how to work and how to practice.”
Carr’s exceptional technique and footwork are showing all Dallas players there’s more to practicing than just pushing their bodies to their physical limits. The mental toughness Carr displays on a daily basis in invaluable for a team like Dallas that has caved in critical moments in recent years due to a lack of that coveted trait.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has also been impressed by Carr and praised his new teammate for an exceptional interception in practice against Bryant.
“He got inside on a coverage that he really shouldn’t,” Romo said. “So I’m excited about that. If he can get there and do things like that, that’s going to help us a lot.”
If he plays like he practices, Carr might be the foundation on which Dallas builds a strong NFL defense in the foreseeable future.