Eagles' Carroll enjoying change of scenery

Posted: June 06, 2014

THE MIAMI DOLPHINS haven't experienced a winning season since 2008, meaning Nolan Carroll has not finished any of his four NFL seasons on the preferred side of .500. Evaluating his career at the end of last season, a Dolphins' campaign engulfed by the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin bullying scandal, Carroll determined it was time to begin a new chapter.

A press-coverage cornerback with a 6-1 frame and long arms, Carroll was brought to Philadelphia in the offseason to provide depth to a secondary that last season surrendered the NFL's most passing yards. Perhaps Carroll, who has special-teams experience, will even push for a starting job.

Thus far, the 27-year-old from Green Cove Springs, Fla., has liked what he has seen with the Eagles, from the sports-science emphasis to just the overall atmosphere around the NovaCare Complex.

"This is a team that's enthusiastic, a team that won the division; they've been to the playoffs," said Carroll, who signed a 2-year contract on the same March day the Eagles acquired speedy running back Darren Sproles.

"They're used to that winning attitude right now. You can see that in the locker room. You can see it with the coaches. The whole foundation is pretty strong as far as a winning environment. That's what drew me here."

During Monday's organized team activity session that was open to reporters, Carroll took second-team repetitions opposite Curtis Marsh. Carroll and fourth-round draft pick Jaylen Watkins are the two main additions to the cornerback corps, buoying returnees Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams and Brandon Boykin.

Carroll said he's quickly picked up Billy Davis' defense, which isn't dissimilar to the 3-4 system he played under during his first two seasons with the Dolphins. Since joining the league as a fifth-round draft pick in 2010 (the same round the Eagles took Riley Cooper), Carroll has played almost exclusively press coverage, attempting to derail receivers' timing and routes at a play's inception.

In other words, he's the style of corner Chip Kelly likes to employ.

"I think he fits right in," said Williams, who's been taking first-team repetitions opposite Bradley Fletcher, his fellow returning starter. "I think [Carroll] fits the scheme as far as us being tall and big and rangy guys, he fits right in with us. So as far as I'm concerned, it's going to be great competition for us. It's going to be an opportunity for us to establish great depth and just come out and compete and make each other better."

Carroll has five career interceptions - three coming last season - in 26 NFL starts, 22 during the last two seasons. Avid NFL fans may remember him as the player who in 2010 was tripped on kickoff coverage by then-Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi, who was later suspended the rest of the season. That same game, the team's 13th in his rookie season, Carroll picked off his first NFL pass, ironically enough one thrown by current teammate Mark Sanchez, in an eventual 10-6 Dolphins win.

Carroll now finds himself competing in practice against Sanchez, the Eagles' current second-team quarterback, but the cornerback said he hasn't brought up that interception to his former AFC East rival.

"We've had some good battles for the past 4 years," Carroll said, smiling. "It's cool. We're friends. We've played each other so many times. We know each other from scouting reports. We know each other from joking out on the field a little bit. So it's a healthy rivalry."

During Carroll's tenure in Miami, the team certainly wasn't devoid of its share of drama. That was no more the case than last season, when the bullying issues among the Dolphins' offensive linemen made national headlines after Martin left the team. Martin has since caught on with the 49ers. The disgraced Incognito remains a free agent.

"It definitely was [tough]. Every day it was not about football; it was about the other stuff, things that really could've been avoided, but it wasn't and it was handled in a different way," Carroll said. "I think that's what got in the way of us having a good season. We were in the thick of things. Things were looking good and we had this happen and it kind of derailed our season a little bit.

"Just me looking back on my 4 years [in Miami], there's always been some type of thing that's always been happening."

Carroll, a University of Maryland product, doesn't appear too concerned about his particular role with the Eagles for this season, whether it's as a starter or added depth. He said the coaching staff told him to "just go out and play." Williams described Carroll as a quiet, hard-working guy with a business-like approach.

Regarding the atmosphere around the squad in South Philly, Carroll said, "Every day it's a positive mindset.

"Nobody's down. Nobody's moping. Everybody's happy. Everybody's enthusiastic, intense, ready to practice and ready to get better," he said. "Not just even-keeled but every single day trying to get better."

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