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Film Room: What to expect from TJ Carrie as the Colts primary depth cornerback

What does TJ Carrie bring to the Colts as the CB4?

Los Angeles Rams v Cleveland Browns Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts suffered a fairly significant loss this offseason when Marvell Tell III opted out. While Tell wasn’t a star or even a starter for this team, he figured to be a key depth piece behind the starting duo of Rock Ya-Sin and Xavier Rhodes. Since Tell’s opt out, I have been screaming incessantly into the void for the Colts to address this weakness and bring in another outside corner prior to the season. My endless cries were not answered unfortunately and the Colts are opting to roll with TJ Carrie as the primary backup for both the outside corners and the slot position behind Kenny Moore II.

With the Colts’ confidence in Carrie to get the job done as the primary depth corner on this roster, I decided to take a look at his film to see what type of player we have here. What we are going to look at today is a comparison of two positions with Carrie and why I think it is best for him to stay in the slot for this season.

Struggles on the Outside

TJ Carrie played for the Cleveland Browns last season and they had him bounce around between playing slot corner and outside corner. He started the season on the outside but shifted more to the slot once rookie Greedy Williams returned to action.

Carrie had noticeable struggles on the outside which led to me looking at the numbers when comparing the two positions he played. According to Pro Football Focus, he logged 180 coverage snaps on the outside last season. Here are his numbers when lined up outside:

~ 74% completion percentage against

~ 404 yards allowed

~ 4 touchdowns allowed

~ 1 interception

~ 130.7 passer rating against

Now the Browns scheme didn’t make it easy for him but these stats are simply not good at all. Let’s look at some film to go along with this. This first clip is an example of both his struggles and the poor scheme the Browns ran. I have no clue why any defensive coordinator would have their cornerback 10+ yards off the ball in man coverage in the red zone but that is what is happening here. While Carrie is at a disadvantage from the start due to this design, he still needs to read this route better. He is late to read the route and fails to force the play back inside where he has his help defense. He essentially opens the gate to the outside and the offense is able to easily connect for the touchdown.

Again we see the atrocious Browns scheme on display as the corners are lined up way off the ball. My issue with Carrie here though is he is respecting the speed of receiver Miles Boykin way too much. Why is he backpedaling off the snap here when he is lined up 10+ yards off the receiver? Carrie also turns to run when the receiver isn’t really selling a vertical route. Look at Boykin on this route. He sprints initially out of his stance but then slows up and barely sells vertically before cutting to the outside. A veteran corner like Carrie should have been able to read this route. A common theme I saw in his film on the outside is a general fear of getting beat deep which led to quite a few open plays underneath for successful slants and out routes.

In press man the results aren’t much better. Carrie had a really rough game against rookie standout DK Metcalf last year. Metcalf was able to win easily at the line of scrimmage and Carrie had a few missed tackles after the catch as well. He struggles with getting his hands on receivers early in the route and the receiver does a lot of dictating in press. If he lines up more in the slot, he can avoid many of these press situations where he gets in trouble.

I just don’t think he has what it takes to be even a decent outside cornerback in the event that a starter were to go down. He isn’t aggressive in off coverage, struggles in press man, and has reps like this where he struggles to recover when he is beat. I think if the Colts want him to be the primary backup in the event of an injury outside, it is just asking for trouble. The numbers and film speak for themselves on this matter.

Showing Promise in the Slot

Now let’s get to a positive before this comes off like a hit piece on a guy who hasn’t done anything wrong. The main reason he was brought in is to be the primary backup to Kenny Moore II in the slot in the event that he were to go down with an injury. This is a much better role for Carrie as he preformed fairly well in that spot last year for the Browns. Here are his numbers last year in 202 coverage snaps from the slot:

~ 74% completion percentage against

~ 154 yards allowed

~ 0 touchdowns allowed

~ 0 interception

~ 91.6 passer rating against

While the completion percentage and passer rating are still not incredible, you can see that he was targeted far less when in the slot despite playing more snaps. Let’s start with this clip though to talk about why he is better in the slot. He just looks so much more comfortable. Look at how smooth and decisive he is in this coverage. He sits on the quick hitch route and forces the poor throw from the quarterback. Vastly different player in the slot than on the outside.

Another reason why Carrie seems to succeed more in the slot is that there is more help around him and he isn’t as scared of speed against him. In the slot, corners are more likely to line up against tight ends or players who are typically quicker rather than true burners. This gives Carrie more confidence to come down and make plays on the ball. Here he sits on the underneath out route by the tight end and makes a really nice play on the ball.

Now the Colts’ slot cornerback is a bit different from others in the league. The Colts rely on that position to be stout against the run and have a basic understanding of run fits like a linebacker would have. Carrie isn’t an outstanding run defender but he is a very active and willing to get involved in the run game. He does miss some tackles but he understands his assignment in the run game and fills necessary run gaps to make a play. Here he makes a nice run stop against the Dolphins.

The other area where the Colts slot corner impacts the game is by being a blitzer. Kenny Moore II has made a living off of this. Carrie is not near the level that Moore II is at but he had a few nice rushes from the slot position over the past two seasons. Overall the slot position is where Carrie has the best impact. He is a reliable player who understands his assignment and plays with confidence. Vastly different than the player he is on the outside as he has a positive impact on the game from the slot.

Final Thoughts

I want to start out by saying I do like TJ Carrie and I think he is good veteran depth to have in a cornerback room. The issue I have with the cornerback room is that he is depth at the wrong position for the Colts. He is great as the primary backup to Kenny Moore II as he can play to his strengths and not be a huge drop off if Moore II were to go down to an injury again.

Where I worry is if he has to fill in for a player like Rock Ya-Sin or Xavier Rhodes on the outside. He just hasn’t shown anything on film to give me confidence in his ability as an outside corner. The Colts’ scheme is different from most to where he won’t be in too many one on one situations but there will still be times where he is isolated out there. I just don’t think he’s strong enough at that spot to be the primary backup out there.

If I had to guess right now what would happen if Rhodes or Ya-Sin were to miss time, I’d say that the team would likely move Moore II outside and let Carrie take over the slot for that time. This is better but it’s never a great idea to take one of your best players out of their best position.

Overall this wasn’t supposed to read like a hit piece on TJ Carrie. Again, I do like what he brings as a slot corner and depth at that position. This was written to reiterate the need the Colts have at outside cornerback depth. With Marvell Tell III opting out, the Colts lost a key depth piece on this defense and haven’t really replaced that reliably yet. This will be something to watch as a potential weakness on a very solid and deep football team.