Seventh-round draft picks aren’t often talked about and are usually a long-shot to make a pro roster. The late rounds usually see NFL clubs taking a flier on a player who may or may not ever pan out. If they do, it’s a bonus. If they don’t, not much was lost. Such was the case with T.J. Carrie, whom the Oakland Raiders took with initial thoughts of using him as a return specialist – something he’d excelled at while at Ohio University. But in the wake of OTAs and the team’s three-day minicamp, the Raiders’ coaching staff might be having second thoughts about how best to use the speedy Carrie.
Despite having second-year man D.J. Hayden, as well as new acquisitions Tarrell Brown and Carlos Rogers manning the corners, the Raiders remain dangerously thin in the defensive backfield. That lack of secondary depth has been made all the more noticeable by the injuries suffered by Hayden and Rogers that will keep them from practicing until training camp in July – injuries that may have opened the door for Carrie to stake a claim for more playing time this fall.
Luckily for Raiders HC Dennis Allen and the Oakland defense, they might have an unexpected star in the making who can provide them with some much-needed depth. Of the seventh-rounder, Allen said:
“He absolutely has carried it through. I’ve been very impressed with him. His ability to understand what we’re trying to do within the scheme of the defense. What you look for in guys like that is you look for a guy who is gonna make a play that kind of catches your attention. Really every day there’s been something that he’s done that you say, ‘D—, that was a pretty good play.’ I like where he’s at and the development in the process here.”
With the injuries to Rogers and Hayden, Carrie has been getting most of the reps with the Raiders’ second team which consists of rookie QB Derek Carr – already a starting quality QB in the minds of many – as well as a number of receivers who have a shot at starting roles within the offense. So it isn’t as if Carrie is taking reps against the dregs of the roster and guys who aren’t going to be around when the regular season starts. Competition-wise, there isn’t a lot of drop off between the first and second units and Carrie is routinely making plays.
One of those plays that had Raiders beat writers – and the coaching staff – talking saw Carrie shadowing WR Greg Little up the sideline, staying with him step for step, before making a perfect play on the ball and swatting it away just as it arrived.
Having the opportunity to learn from a number of veteran DBs, as well as a future Hall of Famer like Charles Woodson, who played a fair bit of cornerback himself, will undoubtedly speed his development and equip him with the tools necessary to play the position in the league.
In an interview with Raiders.com, Carrie said:
“To have this opportunity is, to me, awesome. I’m going to soak up as much information and knowledge about the game from these veterans and the keys and how they’ve done it for so long. You never know the background information about how he’s played 17 years, what he does on a regular basis. Now that I’m here and I get to see these things from a player’s standpoint, I’ll understand all the tricks of the trade that he does each and every time he comes into the workplace and I’ll feed off of that.”
While Carrie seems a virtual lock to make the final 53-man roster, what the Raiders will do with him remains a mystery. He’ll likely see a lot of action as a return man, but if he continues to develop as rapidly and spectacularly as he has to this point, we may see him roaming the Raiders’ secondary sooner rather than later.