Brandon Carr has been a total failure. I’m not sure how much more bluntly I can phrase it. When considering the money and expectations involved in his signing, he has been perhaps the most disappointing acquisition in recent memory.
Yes, Roy Williams was worse (he was technically acquired via trade) as was Marco Rivera (remember that colossal mistake). But in the past 2-3 years, Brandon Carr has that honor in my book. That $50M doesn’t come without strings attached. He was expected to come in and be the cornerstone of this Dallas defense. Instead he’s just a guy struggling to get by.
I know there are a lot of Brandon Carr lovers still out there. I was one of them until this season really got going. Apologists will say it’s Monte Kiffin that’s to blame. Kiffin is forcing Carr to play zone coverage when everyone knows Carr is a man cover-corner. I will not deny this. That is completely factual. Kiffin is to blame and will certainly be dealt with in 2014 as a result. Other apologists will say it’s a trickle-down effect of all of the injuries on the defensive line. I will not deny this either. Without a competent pass rush Darrelle Revis himself wouldn’t completely shut down the opposition.
Apologists will never run out of reasons to take the onus off of Brandon Carr and plant it someplace else. That’s what they do. I know because I think I may be one with Dez Bryant, and DeMarco Murray (but that’s a topic for a different day)! The point is, there are always roadblocks standing in the way of success. Everyone has them. Carr has seen them plenty. But the good players in this league find a way to overcome. They succeed anyway. The great ones find a way to elevate those around them. Carr has done neither.
Looking at Brandon Carr’s history it is clear he is a man coverage CB. Man coverage utilizes a different set of skills than that of a zone cover-corner. In fact, man coverage is considerably harder than zone. Man coverage comes in many different shapes and colors. Sometimes it’s inside leverage and sometimes it’s outside. Sometimes it’s bump and run which asks the corner to chase the receiver, and sometimes it’s soft and asks the corner to keep the receiver in front of him.
Carr has been poor in almost every coverage situation asked of him. When it was zone. When it was bump. When it was man soft. It seemed he had a couple nice games in week 6 and 7 (two games bookmarked by his worst performances against Denver and Detroit), but those “good” performances were just mirages. In week 6 Dallas played RGIII. If you remember, RGIII was notably inaccurate that day. Receivers ran open quite often. RGIII missed his targets and Carr would celebrate. Week 7 was much of the same. Nick Foles, a traditionally accurate passer, was seriously uncalibrated. Again, receivers ran open. Foles just couldn’t get the ball to them. Carr celebrated once more.
Call it blind optimism but we all went into Detroit thinking he could handle Calvin Johnson. I won’t rehash that entire ugly record-breaking day but the facts are the facts. In Calvin Johnson’s entire career, no one has ever covered him as poorly as the Dallas Cowboys (primarily Carr) covered him that day. He was always nearby but was never in position (or willing) to make a play. He seemed timid. I’ve seen terrible CBs cover Johnson much more aggressively. I’ve seen them make plays on Johnson and I’ve seen them get beat big by Johnson. The point is – they competed. Carr chose not to.
Even when Brandon Carr is in his preferred coverage he has come up short. Inman coverage, he has played passively, failing to turn his head and look to the ball. It’s worth noting his abilty to turn his head to play the ball is what makes him a good man cover-corner in the first place (that awesome endzone INT on Thanksgiving is an example of what he CAN do). He’s probably gun-shy from all of the failure this season, but that’s not an acceptable excuse. Not acceptable for a guy paid like the a Top-5 CB. The fact that Carr isn’t even playing well in man coverage says the problem may now be psychological.
Note: His ideal coverage is bump and run with a safety over the top. He can play ultra aggressive knowing a deep safety is over the top. He had this coverage multiple times this season. Even in Detroit. He still played poorly. Keep in mind, just because a safety is over the top doesn’t mean it’s a zone.
This Dallas Cowboys defense is epically bad. Brandon Carr is not the reason. But being the $50M man he’s expected to play better than this. Likewise, Demarcus Ware and Sean Lee are also expected to elevate their play. After all, they are also cornerstones and are not without blame. But none of this absolves Carr. He is paid like a Top-5 but is performing in the bottom half.
It’s time to stop making excuses and stop overvaluing our players. That is clearly what the Jones’ do and what keeps the Cowboys at 8-8 every season. We need to recognize the problems and fix the problems. While Carr certainly isn’t a top-5 CB (never was/never will) he needs to be better than he is right now. And don’t even get me started on Morris “the best thing since Deion” Claiborne…
Over the next couple weeks, lets take a look at some of the Stars on this defense and decide if they really are stars, or if we just seem to think they are better than they really are.
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